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Daily Archives: December 11, 2019
Here are ‘The Five’ questions we asked Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld ahead of his Knoxville show – Knoxville News Sentinel
Posted: December 11, 2019 at 8:48 pm
Fox News Channel's Greg Gutfeld, who has made a career out of parodying current events,is having an event of his own this weekend in Knoxville.
The controversial commentator and satirist is bringing to life his latest book,"The Gutfeld Monologues: Classic Rants from The Five," on stage Sunday at the Tennessee Theatre.
Gutfeld is a co-host of Fox News' "The Five" and the host of "The Greg Gutfeld Show," which Forbes reported earlier this year was the third most-watched show in late-night television ahead of programs like "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and"Nightline."
Knox News sent some questions to Gutfeld ahead of his sold-out stop in the Scruffy City. Here's what he had to say.
Greg Gutfeld of 'The Five' and 'The Greg Gutfeld Show' sits on a set for Fox News Channel. The TV host is coming to Knoxville on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, to bring his most recent book to life in front of a sold-out audience.(Photo: Courtesy of Fox News Channel)
On an October segment of "The Five," you called the current time we are living in the golden age of crazy. As the year winds down, what is the craziest news story you recall from 2019 and why?
"Its all nonstop crazy.the last three years have been the Trump show, and were just supporting characters in his television series.It is why the media is so bitter. Hes made them inconsequential, and they hate that.When he enters a room, the spotlight goes directly to him, and leaves the rest of the chattering classes in the dark. I like that. But the oversized egos at other networks dont."
Youre a libertarian although you already know that but so is the mayor of Knox County, WWE wrestler Glenn Jacobs. What makes now the golden age of crazy a good time to be a libertarian?
"Two very simple things: peace and prosperity. Any honest libertarian should admit that Trump has been good for Americans, by a libertarians definition. Meaning, unleashing the free market by reducing taxes, burdens, and regulations while trying to reduce our military footprint and avoiding regime change wars.Those are two central libertarian goals, and its a shame more libertarians dont give him credit for that.He also champions the individual over the group another libertarian mantra."
Lets just say the current field of Democratic candidates are the only people you can choose from for president. If you were forced to vote for one, who would it be and why?
"There are some interesting people there. I like Tulsi, I even like Joe, I really liked Marianne and Cory has energy. But once a candidate starts drifting into identity politics and the economics of grievance, I leave the room. I think out of everyone, Tulsi has the biggest and brightest future. Shes smart and scary, I like that."
Your bio mentions you have been called outrageous and outspoken, which has led to some controversy in your career. And the word controversy often has a negative connotation tied to it. But what do you see as the positive side of being controversial when it comes to participating in and discussing politics?
"Those words are editorial, so I dont see myself that way. Im just some guy who has the job of his life. I was a class clown in the back of homeroom when I was 16, and now Im doing that same gig, but getting paid for it. Chasing controversy for the sake of controversy is a losers game. I avoid that, and avoid people who do that!"
What five questions should a reporter ask if he was trying to get never-before-revealed information about Greg Gutfeld?
"WHY, WHO, WHERE, HOW, WHAT"
Posted: at 8:48 pm
Recent weeks have seen global sentiment cool off as US-China trade talks turn positive. Granted, the inverted yield curve that gave a warning sign in the summer has already turned and while the mood is lightening, there are still some dark signs that point to a recession just around the corner.
The Equity Market
The equity market has sustained record high levels in an environment of flat revenues. The current corporate profit cycle started in 2016, and a retracement was expected after companies posted flat earnings in the first three quarters of 2019. But high valuations have persisted in the market, due to positive trade talks, and a change in the monetary policy environment. The US has cut rates thrice in 2019, but during the October meeting, the Federal Reserve signalled a pause in further rate cuts. The worry is that the current monetary policy has supported the high equity levels, rather than actual company fundamentals. A less favourable, even constant monetary situation would trigger the chase for fair valuations and will likely pressure stocks lower.
Still, the biggest cause for concern is sovereign debt. The US already crossed the psychological $20 trillion debt barrier and is well on course to top $1.3 trillion in 2019. The last time the Fed ran $1 trillion in annual deficits was during 2009-2012 when an aggressive quantitative easing program was implemented following the 2008 global financial crisis. The Fed has already stated it is not undertaking any quantitative easing program at the moment, and the US economic data does not make the case for one. The economy is close to full employment and there have been a stream of overall positive economic data. In such an environment, the wisdom is always to cut federal deficits and hike rates. The fear is that there will likely be no bullets left for the Fed to utilise when things go south from here. This potentially means that any decline can easily turn catastrophic or unmanageable.
The US is delivering some warning signs in a seemingly bright environment, but the situation is gloomy in the Eurozone. The common region has posted a mild and shaky recovery in 2019, but one of the major economies in the bloc has emerged as a huge risk factor. Italy avoided a political nightmare in September when a snap election was averted following the resignation of the countrys Prime Minister and the collapse of government. But the countrys even bigger problem is its public debt; which at $2.3 trillion, represents more than 133% of its GDP. During the global financial crisis, the Greece debt crisis weighed down on the entire Eurozone region. Italy, though, delivers an even bigger scare. Its economy (the third largest in the Eurozone) is ten times that of Greece, and any domestic crisis will have an even bigger doom loop effect on the entire region.
There is also another important indicator that investors must pay more attention to; the Consumer Sentiment. One of the major indicators for tracking this is the University of Michigans Consumer Sentiment Index, which has been turning lower for the better part of the year. As well, it has been suggested that in the current interconnected world, we can literally talk ourselves into a recession. The idea of narrative economics or viral recession can lead to consumers shifting their behaviours accordingly. They can save more or even cut their spending, and their collective negative sentiment is a major threat to corporate profits. There has been a stream of negative news throughout 2019 and there are major political events, such as the UK Brexit and the US general elections in the coming year. If consumer behaviour continues to be more risk averse, then the recession can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When turbulence is around the corner, investors worry even more about their money. The tendency is to look for opportunities in the fixed-income market, such as bonds and government treasuries. Safe haven commodities, such as gold and nowadays, even cryptocurrencies, may appeal to investors willing to chase risk in a depressed market. But there may be even bigger opportunities in the stock market where short selling strategies can yield bigger returns as investors express their collective fear.
On the Last Day of Reason’s Annual Webathon, Donate To Join Our Awesome Crew of Supporters and Friends – Reason
Posted: at 8:48 pm
Today is the last day of Reason's annual webathon and you guys have really come through for us. Nearly 1,200 donors have kicked in more than $345,000 so far, which is pretty mindblowing considering that we set our initial goal at $200,000. Many of you stepped up to participate in the three (3!) generous challenge grants that turned every new $1 into $2!
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Posted: at 8:47 pm
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The McKinsey Mayor has a plan: Copy the most successful Democratic politician of the last generation. If an inexperienced but inspiring young black man from Chicago could become president, why not an even less experienced, even younger gay man from Indiana? John McCormick reports for the Wall Street Journal reports that "it is Mr. Buttigieg among the top-tier candidates who is trying the hardest to mimic the former presidents campaign style."
There are just two problems. Pete Buttigieg is running a radically different campaign in a radically different time. Where the party's center of gravity was decidedly moderate in 2008, today it is deeply fissured between moderates and a resurgent left. Thus where the Obama campaign could plausibly both promise optimistic, sweeping change and run on moderate policies, the Buttigieg campaign is going straight for moderates by cynically blasting quality leftist policy like Medicare-for-all and tuition-free college with conservative rhetoric.
Despite his smiling persona, Buttigieg, like Amy Klobuchar, is all about falsely telling the American people what they can't have. Call it the audacity of nope.
Over the past few weeks Buttigieg has started several policy fights with the left. He attacked Elizabeth Warren over her support for Medicare-for-all, demanding to know how she would raise taxes to pay for it despite the fact that he has still not fully costed out his own plans, which would certainly require at least several hundred billion per year in new taxes (though the campaign has said repealing Trump's corporate tax cut might pay for his health-care agenda). More importantly, Buttigieg failed to mention that his own plan would be more expensive on net than Medicare-for-all, because it would not have the same leverage over prices and would preserve much of the current duplicative and wasteful structure.
Most recently, Buttigieg has attacked Medicare with tendentious libertarian ideology about choice. "Youre not free if you dont have health care," he said in a recent stump speech, "but you should have the freedom to choose whether you want it." By this view, non-universal Medicare increases choice and is hence better but elides the fact that it would foreclose the choice of a complete system which covers everyone from cradle to grave, without exception. As usual, libertarian choice rhetoric obscures more than it reveals.
Now, this might sound somewhat familiar. Back in 2008, the major health care policy argument was whether the reform that would become ObamaCare should have an individual mandate. And Obama did cynically promise, Buttigieg style, that his plan would not need one, only to put it back in when it came time to pass the bill. But this was a narrow and technical point that only partly obscured that both candidates basically agreed about what needed to be done. Unlike Buttigieg, Obama was not running far to the right of a full-throated Medicare-for-all supporter.
Buttigieg's case against tuition-free college is just as bad. He would zero out tuition only for families making less than $100,000, and reduce it for families making between that and $150,000. His reason: "I have a hard time getting my head around the idea a majority who earn less because they didnt go to college subsidize a minority who earn more because they did." This is utterly disingenuous, and politically poisonous. In fact, it is the ultra-rich who would pay for tuition-free college under both the Sanders and Warren proposals, with a financial transactions tax and a wealth tax respectively.
As historian Eric Rauchway points out, tuition-free college was also the actual reality for most public American colleges for over a century just the kind of universal program that boosted citizen solidarity and fellow feeling. Indeed, back in 1974, Fred M. Hechinger predicted that then-new tuition fees "threaten to turn higher education into an instigator of class warfare," because if the "children of the [poor] are encouraged to attend college tuitionfree or even on a subsistence subsidy as they ought to be then hardpressed middleclass families are likely to react in anger and political vindictiveness."
That is pretty much exactly what happened, as middle- and upper-middle class families with young children now have to scrimp and save for decades to have a chance at affording college or their kids end up saddled with gigantic student loan debt, or both. Now Buttigieg is exploiting that class divide, using education policy that absolutely would benefit the overwhelming majority to drive a wedge between the middle and working classes. "[W]here I come from, three out of four people dont have a college degree," he said recently. "And if the message were sending to them is that you need a college degree in order to get by in life were leaving most Americans out."
The major concrete effect of this duplicity, of course, would be to protect the top 1 percent from taxation, and make post-secondary education more expensive for people not terribly far up the income ladder.
In the 2008 primary, just like health care, Hillary Clinton and Obama basically agreed with the since-abandoned education reform consensus, and it barely came up during the debates. Unlike Buttigieg, Obama was not running far to the right of a free tuition supporter.
Buttigieg's cynical moderation is reflected in his demographic support, which comes overwhelmingly from older whites. Every supporter quoted in the Wall Street Journal article is over 58. Where Obama racked up tremendous margins among the young and minorities with his energetic charisma, the ongoing Morning Consult poll finds that nearly 90 percent of Buttigieg supporters are white, 59 percent over 55, and 35 percent over 65. Just 6 percent of his supporters are black, and 8 percent between 18-29. The famed Obama coalition it is not.
In retrospect, one can see a great deal of cynicism in the Obama campaign of 2008, especially in his subsequent treatment of homeowners. But partly because his presidency was a disappointment, you can no longer promise "hope and change" without actually backing it up with genuinely aggressive policy.
Buttigieg might be rising in the polls with his elderly coalition, but he'll never recapture that Obama magic.
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Posted: at 8:47 pm
We're in the final few days of Reason's annual webathon, during which we ask our readers, viewers, and listeners to support our original, influential, and principled libertarian journalism with tax-deductible gifts (a perk of being published by a 501[c]3 nonprofit).Gohere to donate and to learn about the great swag we're giving out this year. The webathon ends Tuesday, so don't delay!
For extra motivation, I'm excited to tell you that an anonymous donor is currently matching all donations, dollar-for-dollar, until we reach $50,000 in new gifts. Any amount you give today$50, $100, $1,000, or even $5,000will be instantly doubled until we reach $50,000! Make your donation go twice as far by giving right now.
One of the things for which we use your money is to develop new ways to bring our journalismarticles, videos, and podcaststo different and bigger audiences. Since our founding in 1968, we've always been on the hunt not just for stories about what comes next in American politics and culture but for how to get our stories out into the world in new and interesting ways. The result is a pretty cool history of innovation, gambles, and publishing firsts.
The first few issues of Reason were cranked out on an old mimeograph machine, the do-it-yourself (DIY) tech of the day. We launched our website in 1994, when most print publications were either ignoring online publishing completely or shrilly denouncing the web as the end of all that was good and decent when it came to media.
In 2007, we launched Reason TV, one of the first "pivots" to video by an existing journalism outfit. I recounted the origins of Reason TV in a previous webathon post (short version: Thanks, Drew Carey!) so I won't go into that here, other than to note that our pioneering efforts in online video proceed directly from our vision of a world in which creative destruction is not only tolerated but actively encouraged.
In 2010, we released a series of videos about the national debt that were filmed in amazingly crisp 3D! Our thinking was that conventional two-dimensional footage just couldn't capture the full horror of rapidly mounting debt. Below is the series, which includes a Dadaesque cameo by former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, in old-fashioned 2D. (If you have 3D glasses, you can watch the videos in their original format by going here.) We also published a special 3D companion issue of the print magazinethat came with Reason-branded glasses.
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Posted: at 8:47 pm
North Minerva Reef is the larger and most preferred of two large submerged atolls, popular as a stopover destination and place to await favourable weather for yachts in transit to Tonga or Fiji. North Minerva is almost perfectly oval in shape measuring approximately three and a halfnautical miles across. The reef rim is just 900m wide and has one fairly wide pass through the northwest face, big enough for yachts to pass through easily.
Minerva is described as being like a lake in the middle of the ocean;on the outside of the reef the ocean is 2000m deep, but on the insidethe lagoon is only 20m deep and makes a good anchorage with extensive sandy areas. At low tide the reef is 1m or so above sea level, whileat high tide the sea washesover the top.
The uninhabited reefs are disputed territory between Fiji and Tonga and were named after the whaleship Minerva that wrecked on what is now South Minerva in 1829. A great summary of a number of Minerva wreck tales written by Scottand WendyBannerot can be found here.The reefs are also known as excellent sites for diving and snorkelling as they are in near pristine condition, please take care to help keep them that way.
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The Spanish-American War: When Liberation Became Oppression | Doug Bandow – Foundation for Economic Education
Posted: at 8:45 pm
On December 10, 1898, the US humbled the old-world empire of Spain. Following thorough defeats in Cuba and the Philippines, Madrid signed a peace treaty surrendering those two territories, along with Puerto Rico and Guam. At a stroke, the new world republic had become a saltwater empire.
The outcome seemed preordained. Americas ambassador to Great Britain, John Hay, called the conflict a splendid little war. But in truth, it was a terrible mistake.
The US had long acted aggressively on the North American continent. Native Americans were largely wiped out as mostly ethnic Europeans, ultimately followed by enslaved black Africans, moved west. British, French, and Spanish enclaves were absorbed. Half of Mexico was annexed.
But in terms of the world beyond, Americans followed George Washingtons admonition to avoid foreign entanglements, especially permanent attachments or antagonisms. The Monroe Doctrine was an attempt to exclude those endless quarrels from the US. The system promoted American exceptionalism, though it was admittedly harsh toward anyone on the continent competing for the same territory.
However, there were Americans who preferred empire to liberty. They were the saltwater imperialists, like Indiana Sen. Albert Beveridge, a noted progressivea leader of a movement filled with social engineers determined to destroy the old constitutional order. Humility was not his strong suit: He claimed God has made us the master organizers of the worldto overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth. Doing so is Americas divine mission, he added. We are trustees of the worlds progress, guardians of its righteous peace.
Public figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, who spent much of his life promoting war, piously clamored for US intervention.
In the case of Spain, this meant transferring, not freeing, its colonial possessions. The proximate cause of the war was Cuba. The sinking of the warship Maine on a visit to Cuba, which American jingoists blamed on Spain, greatly increased tensions. Of course, Madrid had no reason to furnish Washington with a casus belli. The ship shouldnt have been there: Sending the vessel was a gross provocation. It most likely sank due to spontaneous combustion in the coal bunker.
The most important cause of the war was an uprising by the Cuban people against their Spanish rulers, creating a sympathetic cause exploited with great effect by Americas Yellow Press, especially those owned by press barons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. The Spanish government responded brutally, but the newspapers did not stop with the truth, turning fake news into an art form.
Public figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, who spent much of his life promoting war, piously clamored for US intervention. Even he acknowledged the existence of interests in Cuban sugar and tobacco production, as well as the use of the island to support what became the Panama Canal. However, he emphasized the standpoint of humanity.
Yet American complaints about Spanish conduct mixed sanctimony with hypocrisy. The US Army and irregular forces rarely hesitated to kill Native American women and children; US atrocities against civilians were common in the Mexican-American War; Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Phil Sheridan avidly visited the horrors of war upon Southern civilians. Moreover, the prospect of US involvement caused the Cuban rebels to reject conciliatory offers from a new, more liberal Spanish government. They believed, rightly, that Washington would give them all they wanted.
Moreover, since Cuba was the conflicts cause, then only that island should have been the target of the war. However, the real target of Beveridge and his fellow imperialists was the Philippines. For decades American business dreamed of the illimitable markets of China, imagining great riches flowing from selling products to hundreds of millions of Chinese. (How little some things changed over the following century.) The Philippine archipelago would be the perfect way station for American business and military. Never mind that it was occupied by Filipinos who were not looking for a new set of overseers.
American and Philippine forces cooperated in the capture of Manila, after which the former refused to allow the latter to enter the city. Insurgent leader and self-proclaimed President Emilio Aguinaldo claimed US officials had promised official recognition, which they denied. Alas, American imperialists intended to rule. Beveridge, for one, declared:
The Philippines are ours forever. They are not capable of self-government. How could they be? They are not a self-governing race.
Welcome to the new imperium.
President William McKinley attempted to be slightly more conciliatory, issuing a proclamation telling Filipinos they would be expected to love their new rulers.
It should be the earnest wish and paramount aim of the military administration to win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them in every possible way that full measure of individual rights and liberties which is the heritage of free peoples, and by proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule.
Filipinos had been resisting Spanish rule for years and were not inclined to accept new taskmasters. As relations deteriorated, Aguinaldo responded to McKinley.
My government cannot remain indifferent in view of such a violent and aggressive seizure of a portion of its territory by a nation which arrogated to itself the title of champion of oppressed nations. Thus it is that my government is disposed to open hostilities if the American troops attempt to take forcible possession of the Visayan islands. I denounced these acts before the world, in order that the conscience of mankind may pronounce its infallible verdict as to who are true oppressors of nations and the tormentors of mankind.
Roosevelts standpoint of humanity was a fraud. Stuart Creighton Miller of San Francisco State University applied lipstick to the proverbial pig when he wrote that
Americans altruistically went to war to protect the Filipinos from European predators waiting in the wings for an American withdrawal and to tutor them in American-style democracy.
In fact, the imperialists cared more about the islands than the peoples on them. What if the territory fell under another nations influence? How then to help sell US products in China? Alas, Filipinos didnt want Washingtons assistance, and many died resisting it.
Victory did not come easily for Washington. Fighting erupted on February 4, 1899, turning into a full-scale insurgency. Led by Aguinaldo, these early freedom-fighters eventually numbered upwards of 100,000, backed by thousands more ill-armed auxiliaries. Americas occupiers eventually resorted to the same sort of cruel tactics the Spanish had employed, rounding up and concentrating residents to dry up support for the insurgents. What is that but the policy of Spain to her dependencies? asked social scientist William Graham Sumner.
Uneasy soldiers wrote letters home about the frequent mistreatment of locals and the commission of war crimes. Some combatants compared the tactics to those used against Native Americans. In response to a local massacre, Gen. Jacob H. Smith, who was later court-martialed, ordered:
I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States.
The military did its best to suppress the ugly truth. Commanders denied reporters access to insurgent-held territory, attempted to isolate Red Cross representatives, and forced subordinates to recant stories of common brutality. Soldiers who refused to sign a retraction were court-martialed.
Nevertheless, the truth got out. The Philadelphia Ledger reported:
The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog.
Killing those seeking self-government embarrassed diplomats inclined to preach the virtues of the American Revolution and its principles of self-government abroad.
The conflict lasted some three and a half years. Ironically, the fighting officially ended on July 2, 1902, just before Independence Day. Americans ended the Philippines hopes for independence as they celebrated their own historic victory against colonialism. In fact, sporadic combat continued for at least another decade. And some of the islandssuch as the Moros, where Abu Sayyaf and other radical Islamic groups are active todaywere never fully pacified.
The cost was high. Some 4,200 US soldiers died denying the Philippines what an earlier generation of Americans had demanded of the British. Around 20,000 Filipino combatants and 34,000 civilians were killed. At least 200,000 Filipinosand perhaps as many as a milliondied as a consequence of the war, mostly from disease and famine. (The consequences and casualties eerily track with the result of the invasion of Iraq.) All this to extend US naval power and enrich businesses intent on exporting to China.
In 1946, after the end of World War II, the US granted the archipelago its independence. Since then, the Philippines has been closely tied to America, though historic antagonisms occasionally burst forth, as under President Rodrigo Duterte.
The turn toward militaristic colonialism spawned a diverse, vibrant, anti-imperialistic movement. Author Mark Twain, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and politician William Jennings Bryan all united in opposition to what became known as the Philippine-American War. I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess, Twain wrote.
Sumner, a classical liberal teaching at Yale, wrote a famous essay, The Conquest of the United States by Spain. By taking Madrids place, America had adopted Madrids values, as well. He explained:
We have beaten Spain in a military conflict, but we are submitting to be conquered by her on the field of ideas and policies. Expansionism and imperialism are nothing but the old philosophies of national prosperity which have brought Spain to where she is now. Those philosophies appeal to national vanity and cupidity. They are seductive, especially upon the first view and the most superficial judgment, and therefore it cannot be denied that they are very strong for popular effect. They are delusions, and they will lead us to ruin unless we are hardheaded enough to resist them.
The impact of this new approach, he warned, would be far-reaching. He warned:
The doctrine that we are to take away from other nations any possessions of theirs which we think that we could manage better than they are managing them, or that we are to take in hand any countries which we do not think capable of self-government, is one which will lead us very far. With that doctrine in the background, our politicians will have no trouble to find a war ready for us the next time that they come around to the point where they think that it is time for us to have another. We are told that we must have a big army hereafter. What for, unless we propose to do again by and by what we have just done?
And do it again and again.
The Spanish-American War was a giant step into a dramatic new world. The US formally became an overseas, saltwater imperialist power. Americans would kill foreigners who resisted Washingtons rule. However, that was only the beginning. Now Washington needs to finally relinquish its assumed responsibility for attempting to fix most every global problem.Arrogant, sanctimonious, megalomaniacal Woodrow Wilson sought to remake not just one country but the entire world and took the US into the European killfest known as World War I. America had nothing at stake to warrant joining the conflict between contending imperialist blocs. Worse, by radically unbalancing the continents power equation, Washington made possible an even worse war a generation later.
The result was to leave the US as the only force capable of containing the Soviet Union in the lengthy Cold War, which sometimes turned blazingly hot, as in Korea and Vietnam. But that time is long over. Now Washington needs to finally relinquish its assumed responsibility for attempting to fix most every global problem.
President Donald Trump has inveighed against endless wars and spoken of putting America first. This is his chance to overturn the legacy of the Spanish-American War as he establishes his own. Rather than Albert Beveridge, John Quincy Adams, secretary of state and then president, should be our guide.
To those who clamored to intervene in foreign wars, he responded,
Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
That is wise counsel for today.
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Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, at a community consultation session for new accessibility legislation in Vancouver on Nov. 2, 2019.Gerry Kahrmann / Postmedia News Files
As the B.C. government develops accessibility legislation, a left-wing think-tank is calling on policy-makers to consider how historical injustices and continuing discrimination have led to a society that still excludes deaf and disabled people.
From Sept. 16 to Nov. 29 of this year, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction collected public feedback to help develop the new legislation it says will guide government, persons with disabilities and the broader community to work together to identify, remove and prevent barriers.
A framework shows how the legislation could work by including standards for service delivery, employment, information, communication and transportation. Minister Shane Simpson said he wants the legislation tabled in the fall of 2020.
The Broadbent Institute commissioned consultant Gabrielle Peters for its submission, which she said is focused on justice and rectifying decades of oppression and discrimination.
I wrote this because were doing it wrong, said Peters, a disabled Vancouver writer.
We have to change how we think about accessibility. We have to change who we think about in terms of accessibility, in order to start doing it right.
The Broadbent submission first discusses the historical impacts of colonialism, eugenics, institutionalization and sterilization on deaf and disabled Canadians.
It then looks at how those experiences have led to deaf and disabled people being disproportionately represented among the poor, homeless and as victims of violence. They are excluded from education, employment and public and community life, and face barriers in the health care system, the submission says.
Nearly half of all Human Rights complaints (49 per cent) in Canada are disability related, Peters wrote. Discrimination against disabled people is rampant while simultaneously being almost entirely invisible in the public discourse about discrimination.
Broadbent makes 16 recommendations it says will help repair that damage, the first being the legislation should consider the phrase nothing about us without us by including deaf and disabled British Columbians in its name.
Decisions about what was best for disabled people made by the provinces respected leaders resulted in the worst outcomes and a shameful period in this provinces history, Peters wrote. This new legislation must spell out whom it is for and what it is intended to begin to rectify and prevent.
The second recommendation urges government to write legislation that goes beyond making B.C. barrier-free, and works to fight oppression. It recommends that government name ableism as the source of systemic oppression of disabled people and the cause of inaccessibility.
The third recommendation calls for the legislation to be intersectional. This would mean recognizing that class, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other aspects of a persons identity and life experience are linked to various other systems of oppression that marginalize disabled people and make parts of B.C. society inaccessible to them.
The full submission can be read at broadbent.ca. Peters said she hopes it shows to readers that accessibility isnt a gift to be handed to deaf and disabled people, but a human right that theyve been denied.
The submission also features contributions from harm reduction policy specialist Karen Ward and from urban planner Amina Yasin, who write about racism, ableism and the built environment.
Maria Dobrinskaya, B.C. director for Broadbent, said the submissions justice-based approach could guide other ministries in their approaches to housing policy, municipal bylaws, transit and other issues.
Government may choose not to implement all 16 recommendations, Dobrinskaya said. But she is pleased the submission will reach the desks of Minister Simpson and other policy-makers, adding that its important that its on the record.
I think it is very broad in its scope, she said. Im hopeful though, that the comprehensive nature of the approach that we took helps to inform more specific focus on policy that the ministry will be looking at.
The federal government passed Canadas first national accessibility legislation in May, meant to identify, remove and prevent accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. Those include built environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.
That legislation, however, doesnt address barriers within provincial jurisdiction.Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia have passed accessibility laws, and Newfoundland and Labrador are developing their own, too.
But B.C. where more than 926,000 people older than 15 have some form of disability has lagged behind.
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This past year, revelations about the plight of Muslim Uighurs in China have come to light, with massive-scale detentions and human rights violations of this ethnic minority of the Chinese population. Last month, additional classified Chinese government cables revealed that this policy of oppression was powered by artificial intelligence (AI): that algorithms fueled by massive data collection of the Chinese population were used to make decisions regarding detention and treatment of individuals. China failing to uphold the fundamental and inalienable human rights of its population is not new, and indeed, tyranny is as old as history. But the Chinese government is harnessing new technology to do wrong more efficiently.
Concerns about how governments can leverage AI also extend to the waging of war. Two major concerns about the application of AI to warfare are ethics (is it the right thing to do?) and safety (will civilians or friendly forces be harmed, or will the use of AI lead to accidental escalation leading to conflict?). With the United States, Russia, and China all signaling that AI is a transformative technology central to their national security strategy, with their militaries planning to move ahead with military applications of AI quickly, should this development raise the same kinds of concerns as Chinas use of AI against its own population? In an era where Russia targets hospitals in Syria with airstrikes in blatant violation of international law, and indeed of basic humanity, could AI be used unethically to conduct war crimes more efficiently? Will AI in war endanger innocent civilians as well as protected entities such as hospitals?
To be clear, any technology can be misused in war. A soldier could use a rock to commit a war crime. A simple, low-tech land or sea mine can be used indiscriminately and endanger civilians if it is used in the wrong way. A transformative technology like AI can be used responsibly and safely, or it could fuel a much faster race to the bottom.
The United States has declared it will take the high road with military applications of AI. For example, the Department of Defense AI strategy has AI ethics and safety as one of the its fundamental lines of effort. And this is not an empty promise: The Defense Innovation Board just released its principles for ethical military use of AI, marking a year-long, deliberate initiative drawing in AI experts, ethicists, and the general public. By this laudable effort, the United States has shown leadership in the responsible and principled use of this technology in war.
But there is something missing: The AI strategy commitment was to ethics and safety. To date, the Department of Defense has not shown a similar, concerted focus on AI safety. Despite commitments made to the international community and in its own AI strategy, the Pentagon has done little to act on promises to address safety risks unique to the technology of AI or to use AI to enhance safety in conflict. My recent research has shown that this inaction creates risks to those on the battlefield, for civilians and combatants alike, and increases the likelihood of accidental escalation and conflict. In an era where the technology of AI can so easily be exploited by governments to violate the principles of humanity, the United States can demonstrate the high road is possible, but to do so it needs to keep its promises: to address safety risks intrinsic to AI and to search for ways to use AI for good.
Promise 1: Addressing Safety Risks Unique to AI
In its AI strategy, the Department of Defense made a promise to address the safety risks unique to AI technology. This is reflective of Americas long record of commitments to safety and adherence to international laws for armed conflict. For example, all military systems are subject to test and evaluation activities to ensure that they are reliable and safe, as well as legal reviews to ensure they are consistent with international humanitarian law (e.g., the Geneva Conventions). It is not surprising, therefore, that safety is prominent in the defense AI strategy.
Though a commendable intention, the strategy has not yet resulted in significant institutional steps to promote safety with regard to AI. The U.S. military has been busy supporting the Defense Innovation Boards development of AI ethics, with the Joint AI Center also emphasizing the critical role ethics plays in AI applications, yet the pursuit of safety for example, avoiding civilian casualties, friendly fire, and inadvertent escalation has not received the same sort of attention.
I acknowledge a few steps are being taken towards promoting AI safety. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has a program working to develop explainable AI, to help address challenges with the use of machine learning as a black box technology. Explainability will enhance AI safety: for example, by being able to explain why an AI application does something amiss in testing or operations and to take corrective actions. But such steps, while important, do not make up a comprehensive approach to identify and then systematically address AI safety risks. To that end, our most recent report draws on a risk management approach to AI safety: identifying risks, analyzing them, and then suggesting concrete actions to begin addressing them.
From this we see two types of safety risks: those associated with the technology of AI in general (e.g., fairness and bias, unpredictability and unexplainability, cyber security and tampering), and those associated with specific military applications of AI (e.g., lethal autonomous systems, decision aids). The first type of safety risk will require the U.S. government, industry, and academia to work together in order to address existing challenges. The second type of risk, being associated with specific military missions, is a military problem with a military solution obtained through military experimentation, research, and concept development to find ways to promote effectiveness along with safety.
Promise 2: AI for Good
A second promise made by the U.S. government was to use AI to better protect civilians and friendly forces, as was first expressed in international discussions. The United Nations Convention for Certain Conventional Weapons, a forum that considers restrictions on the design and use of weapons in light of requirements of international humanitarian law, has held discussions regarding lethal autonomous weapon systems since 2014. Over time, the topic of those discussions has informally broadened from purely autonomous systems to also including the use of AI in weapon systems in general. As the State Departments senior advisor on civilian protection, I was a member of the Conventions delegation in the discussions on lethal autonomous weapon systems. The U.S. position paper in 2017 emphasized how, in contrast to the concerns of some over the legality of autonomous weapons, such weapons carried promise for upholding the law and better protecting civilians in war. This was a sincere position: Several of us on the delegation were also involved in the drafting of U.S. executive order on civilian casualties, which contained a policy commitment to make serious efforts to reduce civilian casualties in U.S. military operations. The thoughtful use of AI and autonomy represented one way to meet that commitment.
The 2018 Department of Defense AI strategy also contained a similar promise of using AI for better protecting civilians in war. As described in the unclassified summary of the strategy, one of its main commitments was to lead internationally in military ethics and AI safety. This included development of specific applications that would reduce the risk of civilian casualties.
That last commitment, made in both the strategy and in U.S. government position papers, is probably the one that draws the most skepticism. When Hollywood portrays AI and autonomous systems and the use of force, it is often to show machines running amok and killing innocents, such as seen in the Terminator series of movies. But using AI for good in war is not a fanciful notion: At CNA, our analysis of real-world incidents shows specific areas where AI can be used for this purpose. We have worked with the U.S. military and others to better understand the reasons that civilian casualties occur and what measures can be taken to avoid them. Based on analysis of underlying causes of over 1,000 incidents, AI technologies could be used to better avoid civilian harm in ways including:
These are just some examples of concrete applications of AI to promote civilian protection in conflict. The Department of Defense could be a leader in this area, and it is easy to imagine other countries following a U.S. lead. For example, many countries lament the frequency of military attacks on hospitals in recent operations, with a UN Security Council Resolution passed unanimously to promote protection of medical care in conflict in 2016. If the United States were to announce it was leading an effort to use AI to better protect hospitals, it is likely there would be interest from other countries in cooperating with such an effort.
Safety Is Strategically Smart
Why is it a problem if the United States does not rise to establish concrete steps to emphasize AI safety? After all, current and former U.S. government leaders have spoken about how neither Russia nor China will be slowing down their AI efforts in order to address ethical or safety issues. Does it matter?
A focus on safety and care in the conduct of operations has served the United States well. During the second offset, Washington developed precision capabilities to help counter the Soviet Unions advantages in troop numbers. These developments then enabled the United States to take additional steps to promote safety in the form of reduced civilian casualties: developing and fielding new types of munitions for precision engagements with reduced collateral effects, developing intelligence capabilities for more accurately identifying and locating military targets, and creating predictive tools to help estimate and avoid collateral damage. These steps had strategic as well as practical benefits, enhancing freedom of action and boosting legitimacy of U.S. actions while enabling steps to reduce the civilian toll of recent operations. If AI is leveraged to help promote safety on the battlefield, it can yield similar strategic and practical benefits for the United States.
AI safety also has relevance to U.S. allies. Unlike its peer competitors, Russia and China, the United States almost always operates as part of a coalition effort. This is a significant advantage for the United States politically, numerically, and in terms of additional capabilities that can be brought to bear. But ally cooperation, and the interoperability of partners within a coalition, will depend on what capabilities our allies are willing to adopt or to operate in the same battlespace with. It is important that the United States be able to convince would-be allies of both the effectiveness and the safety of its military AI.
AI and Americas Future
The revelation that China used AI to violate human rights contrasts strongly to U.S. promises to take the high road with regard to its military applications of AI. Eric Schmidt and Bob Work have declared that the United States could easily lose its leadership in AI if it does not act urgently. The leadership the United States has shown in AI ethics is commendable, but to fully be the leader it needs to be for our national security and for our prosperity, America must lead the way on safety too. The opportunity to develop AI of unrivaled precision is historic. If it can build AI that is lethal, ethical, and safe, the United States would have an edge in both future warfare and the larger climate of competition that surrounds it. Developing safer AI would once again show the world that there is no better friend and no worse enemy than the United States.
Dr. Larry Lewisis a principal research scientist at CNA, the project lead and primary author for many of DODs Joint Lessons Learned studies, and the lead analyst and coauthor (with Dr. Sarah Sewall at Harvard University) for the Joint Civilian Casualty Study (JCCS). General Petraeus described JCCS as the first comprehensive assessment of the problem of civilian protection. The opinions expressed are Dr. Lewis alone, not necessarily those of CNA or its sponsors.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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This summer was my third without a holiday, spent instead in legal communications with the government. In the summer of 2016, I was doing the same over Theresa Mays decision to trigger Article 50 without consulting parliament. In the summer of 2017, it was regarding what then first minister of Wales Carwyn Jones referred to as her 1 billion bung to the DUP. And this summer it was over Boris Johnsons attempt to prorogue parliament that is shut it down for five weeks and deny elected members of parliament their legal voice over Brexit.
My communication with the prime minister started on 11 July, as a warning shot, to say if rumours of his plans to close down parliament were true, this, in my view, was illegal and I would not hesitate to seek clarification from the courts. All through the summer, I received letters from the government, in which they went to great lengths to assure me they would abide by the law. So much so that there was something fishy about it. My legal team and I continued preparing the case.
The final letter from the governments legal department arrived on 27 August at 5pm, promising that I need not go to court because prime minister Johnson would not be proroguing parliament. The next morning the decision to prorogue was announced: we filed the case at 4.30pm that afternoon. Presumably they had hoped their assurances would lull us into a false sense of security and we wouldnt have time to pull a case together. Whistleblowers said the government had been given advice that our case would fail, that it was not justiciable that it would never get to the supreme court as they would be too afraid to touch it.
Others were telling me there had been discussions about the possibility of the five-week closure of parliament being extended, had I not got permission to have the case heard, or if we had lost the case. That would have allowed Johnson to push through No Deal.
We had three weeks to prepare a supreme court case, with my legal team in different countries, different time zones. To add to the drama, a normal supreme court term starts in October, and we needed the judges back in September to stand a chance of stopping Johnsons action; but most were also travelling around the globe with various commitments. As required for a verdict, we needed an odd number of judges, and thought the efficient supreme court team would manage five. At no time did we envisage as eventually happened all 11 back in time to hear our case.
When the day of judgment came and Lady Hale started to read the decision, she stated that it was unanimous; the team looked at each other in dread, thinking we had lost. It wasnt until she had neared the end of her summary that it slowly dawned on us that we had won. A unanimous judgment was extraordinary: my legal team were extraordinary. Interestingly, in the aftermath of the case, Lady Hale and I were the only ones who received a torrent of abuse. Everyone seemed to have forgotten there were 10 other judges. It was amusing that Lady Hale became famous for her spider brooch when I had been referred to as the Black Widow Spider in the past. Yet at the same time, here you had the first female president of a UK supreme court and, rather than talk about her expertise, reputation and grace, all the media could fixate on was her brooch.
It was also notable that Lady Hale was portrayed as the face of the case. I have spoken to political advisers and commentators who referred to this and asked why they thought it happened. You cant have a woman of colour beating Boris, was the general reply. There was also a fear of a backlash calling for Johnson to stand down, hence the need to underplay the significance of the case and dismiss the roles of the judges and me. Even the fuss over the brooch smacked of attempts to distract from the implications of the ruling.
The UKs top court confirmed its official live stream attracted more than 29m views over the course of the hearing, beating its previous record of roughly 520,000 views, which was from my first case. More importantly, something seemed to have shifted in the global response. Against a backdrop of courts in many different modern democracies being challenged by autocratic, rightwing politicians, legal professionals around the globe were looking to the UK to set an example in defence of democracy. We have had messages from judges around the world saying the case has steeled their resolve and given them confidence; it demonstrated that the rule of law cannot be bullied or diminished by the rise of dictatorial power-grabbing regimes.
As I tried to get into my security car, themen reached the car doors yelling: Cut her filthy tongue out
On a personal level, the abuse was much worse this time. Most notably the men standing outside the supreme court with a noose, with posters calling me a traitor, who were present throughout the entire case. I had to enter and leave each day through the throng shouting hang her, send her back home. As I quickly tried to get into my security car one day, they broke ranks, reaching the car doors and yelling: Cut her filthy tongue out. The police should never have allowed them to be there. They said it was freedom of speech, but inciting violence or making threats against me exercising my civil, lawful rights should not have been allowed. You cant hide behind freedom of speech when violence is being advocated and inciting violence is a criminal offence.
I do understand my friends and family who say, Enough, Gina. But for too long, too many politicians from across the spectrum have got away with weaponising language, with adversarial soundbites that have turned interviews and articles into propaganda rather than fact-based arguments or policy scrutiny. And I cannot stand by while that happens.
The path to a more hopeful future will be one step at a time and we need to persuade individuals, corporations and politicians to do their part. Successful societies and cultures evolve against the backdrop of their contemporary issues and I am afraid what that means for politicians is having to speak truth to power. Were not ever going to go back to the way it was before. Whatever happens, there have to be new conversations, with a new regard for honesty and what we are as a country. What are our faults, our strengths, our opportunities, our sense of identity? Our identity tends to be too closely linked to a past viewed through rose-tinted glasses, rather than the truth of who we are now; and who were likely to be in the future.
And that leads me back to the deeper, thornier issues at the heart of Brexit. Its hard to complain about the world we live in when we dont take an active part in shaping it. We all have a responsibility. That doesnt have to mean thinking in big thoughts or gestures. Its as simple as stopping to give your neighbour five minutes if theyre isolated and cant go out shopping. Speaking to someone from a different part of your community. Its a lack of empathy towards other ethnic groups and social classes that makes oppression and inequality possible.
Gina Millers Rise: Life Lessons in Speaking Out, Standing Tall & Leading the Way is published in paperback by Canongate. To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com.
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