Monthly Archives: November 2016

Portland Pro-Coup Protester: “Why Not Here?”

Portland, OR–Here in the Rose City, outrage and activism have mostly died down just a couple weeks after the surprising victory of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Once there was courageous civil disobedience disrupting the evening commute and pro-democracy property liberation in the dead of night–occasionally mislabeled by critics as “vandalism”–to dissent from the election of Not-My-President-elect Trump. Now, the streets of downtown Portland are relatively calm. Actions still happen many days, but they are sparsely attended.

One gets the sense that many Portlanders have come to accept the reality of an impending Trump Presidency. An uncharacteristically gloomy and rainy November season seems to reflect their sentiments well.

That said, another interpretation is that we may just be experiencing the calm before the storm.  A major action is being planned in Washington, DC to peacefully disrupt the peaceful transfer of power from President Obama to Trump scheduled for January 20, 2017. Activists who can’t make it to DC are encouraged to hold local actions in solidarity.

In light of these historic plans, The Daily Face Palm sat down for an exclusive interview with one of the leaders of the Portland protest movement, Keith Davis, to learn more about his ideas and vision for the future. Highlights from our conversation are included below, edited as necessary to clarify the responses and make them more inflammatory:


DFP: A lot of skeptics have been wondering what the point of protesting the election really is. What would you say to those people?

Davis: That’s easy. Our stretch goal is to hopefully get the election overturned so Hillary Clinton will become president instead of Donald Trump. It’s the only way to save our democracy. Also, many of us looked into moving to Canada before the protests and decided it’s way too f—ing cold up there. Do you know they actually get snow routinely? Unbelievable. I live in Portland for a reason.

DFP: You probably know what I’m going to ask next? What about the electoral college and the rule of law and all that?

Davis: Look, who should decide the American president? Should it be 270 random old white guys arbitrarily chosen to be “electors”? Or should it be the American people? Hillary won New York and California fair and square, not to mention the overall popular vote. I think it’s pretty clear the people have spoken.

And to be fair, Hillary isn’t the only one who has had victory stolen from her. It also happened to the Carolina Panthers earlier this year in the Super Bowl. The Panther defense held the Denver Broncos to dramatically fewer yards, and everyone knows defense wins championships. Yet in spite of this, the Broncos were still declared the winners because they happened to score more points. Completely unjust.

DFP: Do you believe Hillary Clinton would make a good president?

Davis: I’m not her number one fan, but we must #DumpTrump. The way I see it we were bound to have one accused sex offender in the White House come January 20. I’d definitely prefer it was the first husband rather than the actual president.

DFP: Just to clarify, you don’t actually have to say “hash tag”; our people can add that in later.

Davis: My bad.

DFP: Let’s move on. Some people have expressed concerns that if the election was overturned in favor of Hillary Clinton, the response from the deplorable Trump supporters might be less than peaceful. What do you think about that?

Davis: There’s no question that we’ve seen a massive increase in hate crime violence in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, and it’s pretty clear what has caused it. Trump’s supporters are violent, hateful people like we’ve been saying all along. And his victory has emboldened them to do their worst.

That said, everything changes if Hillary is set to become the new president. Trump’s supporters are all violent racists, but they’re only acting out now because they feel like their worldview has been vindicated. If the presidency is returned to Hillary Clinton, I’m sure they’ll calm down and go back to the gun ranges and NASCAR races they crawled out from.

DFP: Wait, what?

Davis: You heard me. You know, another thing people are forgetting in all this is that the US is the unchallenged expert in political coups. Iran, Panama, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Honduras, Yemen, Ukraine, etc. You name the country, and we’ve probably helped orchestrate or support a coup there in some way.

Now, a lot of those may have been disasters, but everyone knows that’s only because we didn’t stay. If we had a coup in the US, it’d be different because, well, the US government would kind of have to stay wouldn’t they? So our question to the skeptics is this: We’ve given coups and democracy to many other countries in the world; why not here?

DFP: Okay. Got it. My last question for you today is something that’s been in the news a lot. When you’re choosing the nature of your action, why block the roads? Isn’t that just going to make everyone oppose your cause out of spite?

Davis: Yeah, we hear this question a lot. But democracy is something worth fighting for, and if we happen to piss a few people off along the way, so be it. Frankly, since they’re busy destroying the planet by driving home (most of them without even the decency to carpool), I can’t say I really feel that bad for them.

Getting back to your question though, it’s a strategic consideration. Right now, we feel like we need to bring this issue to people’s attention because it may not even be on their radar. We may upset them, but at least we’ll get them to take notice. That trade-off is worth it for us.

Now, if it was a more well-known issue, our tactics would be different. For instance, if we were protesting the US-backed War in Yemen which has killed thousands and made millions of people malnourished, or the scheduling of kratom as a narcotic which created a new class of nonviolent criminals overnight, or even the widespread practice of civil asset forfeiture where people are effectively assumed guilty until proven innocent, then we wouldn’t be blocking the streets. Everybody already knows about those issues because that’s what the media focuses on to get viewers.

But how many people know that we just had a presidential election and the illegitimate president-elect is a racist misogynist with a terrible taste in ties? That’s why we have to be in the streets, to raise awareness.

DFP: Thanks for chatting with us, Keith.

*The individual quoted in this piece is fictional. Any similarities between his expressed positions and those of public figures or trolls on your social media feed are entirely coincidental.

Don’t Blame Trump, or Capitalism, for the Next Recession

It took Yahoo! Finance all of a couple hours after the presidential election was called in Donald Trump’s favor to run with this incredible headline: “What could prevent Donald Trump’s recession?”

The man has not even taken office yet, and people are already looking to credit him with the next financial collapse.

Continue reading Don’t Blame Trump, or Capitalism, for the Next Recession

Greedy Drug Companies Extending Customer Lifespans for Profit

​Are drug companies making their customers live longer at the expense of their customers? 

This would seem to be the conclusion drawn from internal memos and emails of major pharmaceutical companies leaked last week which offer a sickening glimpse into the world of that life-extending, profit-seeking world.

Continue reading Greedy Drug Companies Extending Customer Lifespans for Profit

Common Ground Between Progressives and Libertarians after Trump’s Election

The US election is finally over. And if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, some of the worst outcomes appear to have been averted. I don’t mean Hillary Clinton; I mean everything else. So first, let’s be grateful for some of the awful things that did not happen:

  • The election results are not being contested by either candidate. Clinton hasn’t given an official concession speech yet, but according to Donald Trump, she did call him personally to concede.
  • On a related note, there probably won’t be a recount. The margin of victory was large enough that the losing candidate couldn’t seriously push for a recount and extend uncertainty through the weeks to come.
  • Neither Russia nor the Democratic Party were blamed for rigging the results
  • Bonus: We didn’t further escalate tensions with Russia to distract from an unsuccessful campaign
  • No major terrorist attacks, despite ISIS’s calls for violence
  • The winning candidate didn’t rub salt in the wound with the acceptance speech. Instead of inciting further division, Trump’s acceptance speech focused on unity in the same way a conventional candidate would.

Seen in the context of some even worse scenarios, last night’s election outcome isn’t quite so bad. (Personally, I had my own bar for success set at “Just don’t nuke Russia”, so we passed with flying colors in my book.)

Now, the most important question is what comes next. For libertarians, that means emphasizing common ground with progressives.

An Olive Branch to Progressives

Progressives and libertarians are going to be natural allies against the Trump Administration. The basis for this alliance is intuitive. Principled libertarians have been opposed to the expansion of executive power all along, and Democrats and progressives are now acutely aware of the risks posed by an all-powerful President, even if they weren’t concerned previously.

Many people are about to find religion when it comes to the US Constitution, and libertarians should welcome them into the fold.

The scope of potential collaboration is extensive, but these three areas should be the top priority.

Stopping Intervention in Syria

In the general election, Donald Trump advocated a slightly less terrible approach to Syria than Hillary Clinton. Where she advocated a no-fly zone that would require bombing Syrian government troops (and the Russians that are embedded with them) and would likely lead to regime change, Trump usually* favored collaborating with Russia to defeat the terrorists and rebels. Thus, the choice voters had on Syria was, essentially, whether to intervene against the various terrorist groups (and the few remaining moderates in their midst), or intervene against the Syrian government (and de facto, on the side of said terrorist groups).

It was a depressing set of choices, to be sure. But with Donald Trump’s election, there’s an opening to push for complete nonintervention in Syria. Some folks on the left had acquiesced to Clinton’s version of Syria intervention on the grounds that they would actually be saving civilians from the Russian and Syrian bombardment. That premise was always dubious (and refuted by Clinton herself, privately). Now, it’s also irrelevant. Trump is far more likely to continue push a collaboration with Russia against the terrorist groups. And since Syria’s and Russia’s prosecution of the war is viewed understandably as brutal and inappropriate, it follows that progressives will not support it. Indeed, newly skeptical of Trump’s recklessness as commander-in-chief, progressives are likely to be much more open to opposing intervention altogether, as many did at the end of Bush’s term. This is also the correct position for libertarians.

There is no need to settle for the less awful intervention in Syria; Trump’s election creates an opening to halt the Syria intervention entirely.

*Trump occasionally paid lip-service to a no-fly zone during the campaign. But when his running mate tried to offer a Syria policy that included attacking Assad, Trump rejected it. Thus, his nominal support for a no-fly zone appears to be rooted in ignorance about what it actually entails.

The Drug War

Donald Trump made immigration a central theme of his campaign. And in making his critique of immigration, he would often emphasize drugs as one of the maladies of America’s porous southern border. This, combined with Trump’s common refrain of “law and order” are ominous signs for the Drug War under President Trump.

On the plus side, this is an issue where the Tenth Amendment has been used to great effect. This election alone, four more states voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, bringing the total to eight states. This means eight states have restored their citizens’ rights to use marijuana, even though it is still illegal at the federal level; in essence, the states are openly defying federal rules and challenging the Feds to actually enforce them. Fortunately, the federal government has dedicated insufficient resources to do so and harassment of marijuana sellers in these legalized states has been limited.

Libertarians and progressives can continue working together to push legalization in even more states. This expands freedom directly in these states, and it is also likely to alleviate much of the drug flow across the border. After all, if it were legal to grow and produce in the US, there would be no incentive to try to smuggle marijuana across the US border, with all the risk that entails. In turn, this could reduce the perceived harm caused by illegal immigration and encourage Trump to pursue less draconian measures to address it.

Additionally, pushing marijuana legalization has the ancillary benefit of further normalizing the use of the Tenth Amendment to effectively fight an unconstitutional federal law. Since Trump is likely to pursue many more such laws, this may prove to be an invaluable tactic.

Immigration and Deportation

Deporting all or most illegal immigrants is a signature campaign issue for Trump. He has dithered on exactly who is on his list for deportations, but it is likely to be an increase over the present.

Whatever level of deportations Trump ultimately decides to push for, libertarians should be opposing the policy at each step. And this is another issue where the Tenth Amendment strategy is likely to be essential.

Here, it’s unlikely that there will be a legislative solution on a federal level that blocks widespread deportations. That would require some form of compromise and a Republican Party that controls both the legislative and executive branches probably won’t be terribly interested in making deals.

State-level legislation probably cannot directly challenge the legality of any deportation plan. But it can make the policy nearly impossible to carry out by prohibiting state-level law enforcement from assisting the federal government with deportations. The reason is that the federal government’s own resources are woefully inadequate for the task. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for example, has around 20,000 employees total, who would be potentially be charged with rounding up and processing 11 million people in the most extreme case. That can’t really be done, which is why states can sabotage a deportation policy by simply refusing to help. In the process, they would be following in the honorable tradition of northern US states that refused to comply to the Fugitive Slave Acts in the 1800s prior to the abolition of slavery.

Summary

The outcome of the US election is not ideal. If you’ve been following the election cycle at all, you knew that was a foregone conclusion, regardless of who won on Tuesday.

Today, many progressives are understandably horrified by the prospect of President Trump, and libertarians will be their natural allies in the effort to finally rein in executive power. As a result, Trump’s election is not a tragedy; it’s an opportunity.

Correcting the Record: No, Obama Is Not Fiscally Responsible

When it comes to dishonest political shilling, one of my favorite examples is the argument that President Obama is fiscally responsible.

We haven’t heard this theme much lately, mostly because neither major party candidate expresses much concern about the debt or the deficit. But back during the primaries, MSNBC was overjoyed to run with the theme that President Obama reduced the deficit by $1 trillion. And naturally, this was framed in a partisan light–look how much more responsible President Obama has been compared to the reckless Republicans!

This is the chart they used to illustrate the point.

Not surprisingly, this same chart is likely to be thrown at any libertarian who criticizes excessive government spending. Because obviously, if one is criticizing Obama, they must have loved Bush? I don’t get it, but that’s how most people assume it works.

Anyway, although the original article made a silly mistake elsewhere, the central claim about Obama reducing the deficit was correct, as long as one granted some rounding.

But of course, we should always be skeptical when a dataset is restricted to an arbitrarily small time period. Why 8 years and not 10? Or maybe back to the beginning of the Bush Administration?

The answer is that, when viewed in larger time frame, President Obama doesn’t quite come off as a responsible and prudent steward of the budget. Here’s the full time line of annual deficits, for as long as the data has been recorded:

As you can see, every year of the Obama Presidency has produced a higher deficit than any prior year, except for the two years impacted directly by the Great Recession, 2008 and 2009.

Admittedly, the above chart isn’t entirely fair since it doesn’t account for inflation or the growth in the US economy. Thus, it is worth also considering this chart which shows deficits over time as a percentage of that year’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Here, President Obama comes out looking slightly better. His share of the graph (to the right of the final shaded recession) has deficits far smaller than those inspired by World War II, for example, and Obama’s record is also better than Reagan’s in some years. But incredibly, he’s still managing to spend more than the US did during the height of the Cold War in the 50s and 60s.

That said, perhaps the most authoritative argument against the “Obama is fiscally responsible” line is provided by simply completing the original chart from MSNBC, with the updated deficit for 2016.

annual-deficit-chart-2008-2016

In other words, President Obama’s progress on reducing the historically large annual deficits is now in reverse, registering at an unaudited $587 billion in 2016. And this latest deficit occurred at a time of record low interest rates (and thus low interest payments on the debt), in the absence of any major US ground war, and during a period when the US economy is allegedly doing fine.

One of these things doesn’t add up. But whatever else is true, the point is that President Obama certainly does not deserve praise for fiscal restraint.

 

Changes at The Daily Face Palm

I’m pleased to announce that the Face Palm is undergoing a bit of a transition. The site’s name notwithstanding, we’ll be shifting our focus to publish more stand-alone articles that can be shared with other outlets and fewer article recommendations.

We’re also going to try our hand at satire and potentially make that the focus of our site going forward, if it goes well. For this purpose, we have a new writer, Christian Britschgi, who will be joining our team. Christian currently writes for Reason and brings a sincere journalistic voice that is perfect for discussing the absurdities of our present politics.

Going forward, we plan to publish articles Monday and Wednesday with satirical pieces coming out each Friday.

There are a few reasons for the switch.

Personally, it’s become a bit unsustainable to write full-length every day, as it was taking materially all of my free time outside of my day job. And try as I might to shorten them, it turns out that brevity is one of my weaker suits.

Just as important on the practical front, there’s always a fear of preaching to the choir. It is a wonderful fact that there are a great number of bloggers who write from a libertarian perspective, but I suspect most are primarily read by people that already agree.

This is useful in itself, but it’s not our purpose. Our purpose has been to reach out to people with other viewpoints as well as people that may be apathetic about politics entirely. It’s our hope that the new approach will allow us to do so more effectively.

The 2016 Election Is Destroying the Facade of Objectivity

The FBI’s controversial about-face on the Clinton email scandal shines a bright light on one of the most interesting features of the present election: the destruction of objectivity. Or rather, the destruction of perceived objectivity.

Background on Objectivity

When it comes to politics and government, objectivity doesn’t really exist. This isn’t the fault of corrupt politicians; it’s just the nature of the business. Indeed, the Founding Fathers even took this notion for granted. That’s why they endeavored to design a system of government where ambition was made to check ambition. They understood that government would not always and everywhere be populated by saintly individuals acting dutifully in the public interest.

But while our government is predicated on this idea–that government actors will not always be impartial and objective–we do not always remember it. Many Americans are inclined to believe that US governing institutions really are objective.

This is one way to understand, for example, why a larger segment of the population isn’t outraged by the lack of accountability for police brutality. What ought to be a straightforward question of justice and the rule of law falls along strange tribal lines. On one side, what we might call the Blue Lives Matter side, we have people that are essentially saying, “Trust the process”. These people buy into the idea of government objectivity in this area, and generally believe both that a) cops would not kill someone unless they had a good reason and b) the justice system is generally fair and would hold cops accountable if they deserved it. On the other side of the issue, we find people who no longer buy into the objectivity myth, either because a) they have a personal experience that disproved it or else b) they have just encountered too many stories of senseless injustice being perpetrated to still think the system is working fairly.

While actual progress on the police brutality has been slow in coming, libertarians and progressives are certainly making strides in the realm of public opinion. Of course, issues don’t figure prominently in this election cycle. But among the few issues that do get discussed, police brutality is near the top of the list. The reason this is even on the table is because the myth of objectivity has been substantially dismantled, and it now cries out for a solution.

Back to the Election

What horrifying YouTube videos did for police brutality, the 2016 election is doing for many other aspects of the US government and politics generally. Let’s run down the list:

The FBI

When FBI Director James Comey announced the findings of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private emails, the response was predictable. Republicans were outraged that such an alleged miscarriage of justice was done, and some even called attention to a questionable meeting Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, shortly before the decision, to cast further doubt on its legitimacy.  The Republicans were openly suggesting that the FBI made a deal with the Democrats. Meanwhile, the Democrats were delighted to find their standard-bearer free and clear of any investigations, and hailed the FBI for its professionalism. Of course, they would. Even if they truly believed that, it was also in their partisan interest to do so.

Fast forward to Friday, and the narrative is completely reversed. This time, Comey wrote a letter to Congress to alert them that the Clinton email probe had been reopened in a way, as a result of additional emails being identified as part of an unrelated investigation.

Now it was the Democrats turn to accuse Comey of being a partisan hack.

So wait, the FBI Director’s decisions are only impartial when they agree with you? I don’t think that’s how impartiality works…

The reason this matters is that the FBI isn’t usually called into question quite like this. Depending on your perspective, it marks either a new low or a new high.

Too Big to Jail?

The FBI’s political leanings weren’t the only aspect of significance in the Clinton email case. One of the central questions in the scandal was whether politically powerful people will be held to the same rules and laws as everyone else. Comey’s memorable answer, was a resounding, if reluctant, no. Readers may recall these illuminating lines:

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

 …

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.

He could have scarcely said it any more plainly. Yes, there’s evidence that laws may have been broken, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because no reasonable prosecutor would bring the case. Translation: Hillary Clinton is too powerful for the laws to be applied to her.

This is not without precedent either of course. Not prosecuting the politically-connected is a time-honored American tradition. It’s why Ford pardoned Nixon; it’s why Bush officials didn’t get prosecuted for the torture program, and it’s why Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suffered no repercussions for lying to Congress about the activities of the NSA. That said, it’s still rare that the episode garners this much attention.

The Fed

The usually obscure Federal Reserve hasn’t escaped accusations of partisanship or corruption this time around either. Though his own preferences on monetary policy are unclear, Donald Trump has made this a recurring talking point, once suggesting the Fed is being “more political than Secretary Clinton”.

The Elections

Even the elections themselves are being cast in a suspicious light in this election cycle, to a degree not seen in recent memory. Donald Trump’s narrative here focuses on media bias or alleged voting fraud schemes to distort the election outcome. Meanwhile, Clinton’s narrative is that Trump is a pawn of the Russian government, and thus she has alleged the Russian hacking apparatus has been trying to throw the election in his favor. The Obama Administration has also come out to offer a degree of legitimacy to the Clinton narrative by making direct, if oddly tentative, accusations of hacking.

Indeed, we face the very real possibility that, in one week’s time, the official election results will be contested. And either candidate might be willing to try this strategy based on the rhetoric we’ve heard to date.

Consequences for Liberty

What all of this means is that the 2016 election has offered a systematic assault on faith in government and the idea that the government is an objective, impartial actor.

For lovers of liberty, this circumstance represents an incredible opportunity. We already know that the proper attitude towards government is one of deep skepticism. Come November 9th, nearly half of the American electorate is going to agree.