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Category Archives: Libertarianism
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Set Off A Massive Expansion Of Government Surveillance. Civil Libertarians Aren’t Sure What To Do. – BuzzFeed News
Posted: March 31, 2020 at 6:24 am
The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has grown to over 740,000 cases and 35,000 deaths around the world, has been so singular an event that even some staunch advocates for civil liberties say theyre willing to accept previously unthinkable surveillance measures.
Im very concerned about civil liberties, writer Glenn Greenwald, cofounder of the Intercept, who built his career as a critic of government surveillance, told BuzzFeed News. But at the same time, I'm also much more receptive to proposals that in my entire life I never expected I would be, because of the gravity of the threat.
Greenwald won a Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for his reporting on the disclosures by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed a vast secret infrastructure of US government surveillance. But like others who have spent years raising concerns about government overreach, he now accepts the idea that surveilling people who have contracted the coronavirus could be better than harsher measures to save lives.
The kind of digital surveillance that I spent a lot of years even before Snowden, and then obviously, the two or three years during Snowden advocating against is now something I think could be warranted principally to stave off the more brute solutions that were used in China, Greenwald said.
Greenwald said he was still trying to understand how to balance his own views on privacy against the current unprecedented situation. We have to be very careful not to get into that impulse either where we say, Hey, because your actions affect the society collectively, we have the right now to restrict it in every single way. We're in this early stage where our survival instincts are guiding our thinking, and that can be really dangerous. And Im trying myself to calibrate that.
The kind of digital surveillance that I spent a lot of years advocating against is now something I think could be warranted principally to stave off the more brute solutions that were used in China.
And he is far from the only prominent civil libertarian and opponent of surveillance trying to calibrate their response as governments around the world are planning or have already implemented location-tracking programs to monitor coronavirus transmission, and have ordered wide-scale shutdowns closing businesses and keeping people indoors. Broad expansions of surveillance power that would have been unimaginable in February are being presented as fait accompli in March.
That has split an international community that would have otherwise been staunchly opposed to such measures. Is the coronavirus the kind of emergency that requires setting aside otherwise sacrosanct commitments to privacy and civil liberties? Or like the 9/11 attacks before it, does it mark a moment in which panicked Americans will accept new erosions on their freedoms, only to regret it when the immediate danger recedes?
Under these circumstances? Yeah, go for it, Facebook. You know, go for it, Google, Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico and 2016 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, told BuzzFeed News. But then, when the crisis goes away, how is that going to apply given that it's in place? I mean, these are the obvious questions, and no, that would not be a good thing.
"My fear is that, historically, in any moment of crisis, people who always want massive surveillance powers will finally have an avenue and an excuse to get them, Matthew Guariglia, an analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told BuzzFeed News.
Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), told BuzzFeed News that its possible to find a solution that protects privacy and prevents the spread of the virus.
People like to say, 'well, we need to strike a balance between protecting public health and safeguarding privacy' but that is genuinely the wrong way to think about it, Rotenberg said. You really want both. And if you're not getting both, there's a problem with the policy proposal.
An aerial view from a drone shows an empty Interstate 280 leading into San Francisco, California, March 26.
Beyond the sick and dead, the most immediate effects that the pandemic has visited upon the United States have been broad constraints that state and local governments have imposed on day-to-day movement. Those are in keeping with public health experts recommendations to practice social distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
While the US hasnt announced a nationwide stay-at-home order like France and Italy have, large parts of the US are under some degree of lockdown, with nonessential businesses shuttered and nonessential activities outside the home either banned or discouraged. And while President Trump and his allies have focused on the economic devastation wrought by this shutdown, some libertarians have raised concerns about the damage those decrees have done to people's freedoms.
Appearing on libertarian former Texas lawmaker and two-time Republican presidential candidate Ron Pauls YouTube show on March 19, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie pointed to a Kentucky man who, after testing positive for the coronavirus, refused to self-isolate, and whom sheriff's deputies forced to stay home. (Massie later came under bipartisan criticism for attempting to hold up the coronavirus stimulus bill in the House.)
What would they do if that man walked out and got in his car? Would they shoot him? Would they suit up in hazmat uniforms and drag him off? Massie said. Those are the images we saw in China two months ago and everybody was appalled at those images. And now were literally, we could be five minutes away from that happening in the United States, here in Kentucky.
Its crazy, and what concerns me the most is that once people start accepting that, in our own country, the fact that somebody could immobilize you without due process, that when this virus is over people will have a more paternalistic view of government and more tolerance for ignoring the Constitution, Massie said.
Last Monday, Paul's son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, announced that he had tested positive for the disease, only a few days after Ron Paul wrote in his online column that the pandemic could be a big hoax pushed by fearmongers to put more power in government hands.
But the elder Paul's concerns are not shared among some of his fellow former Libertarian Party nominees for president.
Johnson said measures to encourage people to stay in their homes and temporarily shutter businesses taken by states like New York were appropriate. I really have to believe that they're dealing with [this] in the best way that they possibly can, he told BuzzFeed News. And I think it's also telling that most of them are following the same route.
Johnson added that although it was easy to raise criticisms, as a former governor, he saw few other options.
You're just not hearing it: What are the alternatives? Johnson said. I don't know, not having [currently] sat at the table as governor, what the options were. And given that every state appears to be doing the same thing, I have to believe that everything is based on the best available information.
A security guard looks at tourists through his augmented reality eyewear equipped with an infrared temperature detector in Xixi Wetland Park in Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang province Tuesday, March 24. Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
A map application developed by The Baidu Inc. displays the locations visited by people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in Shanghai, China, on Friday, Feb. 21. Qilai Shen / Bloomberg via Getty Images
Gaming out the role of intense surveillance during a pandemic isnt just a theoretical political debate on YouTube. Surveillance at previously politically unimaginable scales has reached countries around the world.
Imagine opening an app, scanning a QR code, and creating a profile thats instantly linked with information about your health and where you've been. The app tells you if youve been in close contact with someone sick with the coronavirus.
This software already exists in China. Developed by the Electronics Technology Group Corporation and the Chinese government, it works by tapping into massive troves of data collected by the private sector and the Chinese government. In South Korea, the government is mapping the movements of COVID-19 patients using data from mobile carriers, credit card companies, and the Institute of Public Health and Environment. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the country's internal security agency to tap into a previously undisclosed cache of cellphone data to trace the movements of infected persons in that country and in the West Bank. And in the Indian state of Karnataka, the government is requiring people in lockdown to send it selfies every hour to prove they are staying home.
No such tools currently exist in the United States but some in the tech community who might have been expected to oppose such capacities have found themselves favoring these previously unthinkable steps.
Maciej Cegowski, the founder of Pinboard and a frequent critic of tech companies intrusions into privacy, wrote a blog post arguing for a massive surveillance program to fight the virus.
My frustration is that we have this giant surveillance network deployed and working," Cegowski told BuzzFeed News. "We have location tracking. We have people carrying tracking devices on them all the time. But were using it to sell skin cream you know, advertising. And were using it to try to persuade investors to put more money into companies. Since that exists and we have this crisis right now, lets put it to use to save lives.
We put up with the fire department breaking down our door if theres a fire at our neighbors house or in our house because we know that in normal times our houses are sacrosanct.
This position is a major departure for Ceglowski, who has warned of how tech companies have invaded our ambient privacy and argued that tech giants reach into our lives is as pernicious a force as government surveillance.
We put up with the fire department breaking down our door if theres a fire at our neighbors house or in our house because we know that in normal times our houses are sacrosanct, Cegowski said. I think similarly if we can have a sense that well have real privacy regulation, then in emergency situations like this we can decide, hey, were going to change some things.
Those doors are already being broken down. The COVID-19 Mobility Data Network a collaboration between Facebook, Camber Systems, Cuebiq, and health researchers from 13 universities will use corporate location data from mobile devices to give local officials "consolidated daily situation reports" about "social distancing interventions."
Representatives from the COVID-19 Mobility Data Network did not respond to requests for comment.
A person watching live data reporting about the worldwide spread of the coronavirus.
Lots of companies claim that they have the technology to save peoples lives. But critics worry that they are taking advantage of a vulnerable time in American society to sign contracts that won't easily be backed out of when the threat passes.
Sometimes people have an almost sacrificial sense about their privacy, Rotenberg told BuzzFeed News. They say things like, Well, if it'll help save lives for me to disclose my data, of course, I should do that. But that's actually not the right way to solve a problem. Particularly if asking people to sacrifice their privacy is not part of an effective plan to save lives.
In response to the pandemic, some data analytics and facial recognition companies have offered new uses for existing services. Representatives from data analytics company have reportedly been working with the CDC on collecting and integrating data about COVID-19, while Clearview AI has reportedly been in talks with state agencies to track patients infected by the virus.
Neither Palantir nor Clearview AI responded to requests for comment, but the appearance of these controversial companies has raised alarms among those in the privacy community.
The deployment of face recognition, as a way of preventing the spread of virus, is something that does not pass the sniff test at all, Guariglia said. Even the companies themselves, I don't think, can put out a logical explanation as to how face recognition, especially Clearview, would help.
The leaders of other technology companies that design tools for law enforcement have tried to offer tools to combat COVID-19 as well. Banjo, which combines social media and satellite data with public information, like CCTV camera footage, 911 calls, and vehicle location, to detect criminal or suspicious activity, will be releasing a tool designed to respond to the outbreak.
We are working with our partners to finalize a new tool that would provide public health agencies and hospitals with HIPAA-compliant information that helps identify potential outbreaks and more efficiently apply resources to prevention and treatment, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
We have so much history that shows us that mass surveillance generally isn't very effective, and mission creep is inevitable.
Those efforts cause concerns for people like Evan Greer, the deputy director of digital rights activist group Fight for the Future, who told BuzzFeed News that such tools, once deployed, would inevitably be used for more purposes than to fight the pandemic.
We have so much history that shows us that mass surveillance generally isn't very effective, and mission creep is inevitable, she said. It's not necessarily a question of if data that was handed over to the government because of this crisis would be repurposed. It's a matter of when.
In addition to those companies, many camera makers have been making a bold claim: Using just an infrared sensor, they can detect fevers, helping venues filter out the sick from the healthy. These firms include Dahua Technology in Israel, Guide Infrared in China, Diycam in India, Rapid-Tech Equipment in Australia, and Athena Security in the US.
In late February, Guide Infrared announced that it had donated about $144,000 worth of equipment that could warn users when fever is detected to Japan. The company said its devices would be used in Japanese hospitals and epidemic prevention stations.
Although Guide Infrared claimed that its temperature measurement solutions have helped in emergencies including SARS, H1N1, and Ebola, the Chinese army and government authorities are some of its major customers, according to the South China Morning Post. Its been used in railway stations and airports in major Chinese regions. Its also partnered with Hikvision, a Chinese company blacklisted by the US over its work outfitting Chinese detention centers with surveillance cameras.
Australian company Rapid-Tech Equipment claims that its fever-detection cameras can be used in "minimizing the spread [of] coronavirus infections." Its cameras are being used in Algeria, France, Egypt, Greece, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and many more countries, according to its website. UK camera maker Westminster International said that it has a "supply range of Fever Detection Systems for Coronavirus, Ebola & Flu."
US company Testo Thermal Imaging sells two cameras with a FeverDetection assistant. A section of its website titled Why fever detection? argues that managers of high-traffic venues have a responsibility to filter for fevers: Whether ebola, SARS or coronavirus: no-one wants to imagine the consequences of an epidemic or even a pandemic.
A Testo spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company has seen a massive increase in demand for its products in response to the coronavirus and that its cameras are being used worldwide. The spokesperson declined to provide specific examples or name specific countries.
While the appetite for fever-detecting cameras is clearly there, civil liberties advocates have concerns. Guariglia said that, regardless of their thermal imaging capabilities, surveillance cameras are surveillance cameras.
More surveillance cameras always have dubious implications for civil liberties. Even if their contract with thermal imaging ends at the end of six months, Guariglia said, I bet those cameras are gonna stay up.
A man wearing a protective mask walks under surveillance cameras in Shanghai.
Julian Sanchez, an analyst with the Cato Institute and commentator on digital surveillance and privacy issues, told BuzzFeed News he was willing to accept measures he might otherwise have concerns about to limit the spread of the virus.
Im about as staunch a privacy guy as it gets, Sanchez said. In the middle of an epidemic outbreak, there are a number of things Im willing to countenance that I would normally object to, on the premise that they are temporary and will save a lot of lives.
But he still questioned the efficacy of some of the current proposals: Theres a ton of snake oil being pitched by surveillance vendors, he said.
More than that, he had concerns about what would happen to civil liberties after the pandemic passed, but the measure put in place to combat it did not.
I think a lot of civil liberties advocates would say, Well, if this is very tightly restricted, and only for this purpose, and it's temporary, then, you know, maybe that's all right. Maybe were able to accept that, if were confident it's for this purpose, and then it ends, Sanchez said. The question is whether that's the case.
Sanchez worried that the coronavirus, like the war on terror, is an open-ended threat with no clear end inviting opportunities for those surveillance measures to be abused long after the threat has passed.
In the same week that he spoke, the US Senate voted to extend until June the FBI's expanded powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, originally passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 19 years ago.
Mar. 30, 2020, at 21:57 PM
Clearview AI has reportedly been in talks with state governments. An earlier version of this story misstated the government agency it had reportedly been in contact with.
Aiming for KO in KY The only Republican primary challenger with the backing of the RJC – Jewish Insider
Posted: at 6:24 am
Todd McMurtry is a seasoned trial attorney who first received national exposure after representing a student filmed in a confrontation with protesters after last years March for Life in Washington, D.C. The lawsuit, filed against media organizations for their coverage of the incident, drew national headlines. But it was President Donald Trumps tweets on Friday against libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) that put the spotlight on McMurtry, who is challenging the four-term incumbent for his seat in Congress.
Details: McMurtry, who launched his campaign in January, is challenging Massie in the June 23 Republican primary for Kentuckys 4th congressional district. In 2018, Massie won re-election with 62% of the vote.
Background: McMurtry, 57, grew up in Covington, Kentucky. After graduating from Covington Latin School and Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, he studied law at Salmon P. Chase College of Law, affiliated with Northern Kentucky University. He now works as an attorney focusing on mediating commercial disputes. In 2019, after 28 years of practicing law, McMurtry was selected among the top 50 Kentucky super lawyers. He also spent several years in Washington D.C. as a fundraiser for the Republican National Committee.
Stepping up: In a phone interview with Jewish Insider on Sunday, McMurtry said he was in Dallas, Texas, last fall visiting his daughter and grandchildren when the entire family caught a cold. So I spent too much time on social media and I saw things that Thomas Massie had posted that were, I thought, pretty upsetting, he recounted. I followed him for a long time and saw his questionable votes. And I said weve really had enough of this guy and his crazy votes we have to do something about it. I posted something on Facebook and people started to contact me to run for office. So I did some inquiries and polling and all that stuff and decided that we had a shot and I was going to try it.
Massies move: It was Massies push last Thursday for a recorded vote a move that forced a number of lawmakers to return to Washington amid the coronavirus crisis that upended the course of McMurtrys campaign. [Massie] seems to be generally an attention seeker on libertarian issues, and so we werent surprised to learn that he planned another stunt, McMurtry noted. But to be honest, the way he self-destructed was surprising I think to everyone. It doesnt seem to have any logic or reason other than just a pure adherence to libertarian principles, which are not the principles of the 4h district in Kentucky.
Trump factor: McMurtry told JI that Massies recent actions will push away the presidents supporters, estimating that Republicans in the district are over 90% pro-President Trump. They dont like to see what [Massie] did. And I think he shot himself in the foot. As for Trump, of course, we would welcome his endorsement, McMurtry said. In an attempt to get the presidents ear when he visited his Mar-a-Lago resort last month, Massie ran a TV ad airing on Fox News in South Florida branding McMurtry a Trump hater.
RJC boost: The Republican Jewish Coalition announced on Friday that it is backing McMurtry and will actively fundraise for his campaign, describing Massie as the only anti-Israel member of the House GOP caucus. This marks the first time the RJC is supporting a primary challenger to an incumbent. In January, the groups executive director, Matt Brooks, told Jewish Insider that the RJC will not support Massie along with three other Republican House members after they voted against the bipartisan Never Again Education Act, legislation to authorize new funding to help schools teach students about the Holocaust and antisemitism. McMurtry told JI he was thrilled and feels very honored to get the RJC endorsement, and we intend to make that endorsement pay off for the RJC by winning this race.
Massie stands alone on Israel: Massie was the only Republican to vote no on a House resolution (H.R. 246) last year condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In 2014, he was the only member of Congress from either party to oppose the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. Later that year, Massie voted against sending emergency aid to Israel to boost the Iron Dome program during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. In 2016, Massie was again the only House member to oppose extending sanctions against Iran and was the only lawmaker to vote present on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
McMurtrys case: The Republican candidate stressed that support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship actually plays very well here in Kentucky and is of primary importance for voters. I know that the people here want their elected representatives to be strong supporters of Israel, McMurtry said. I share that support both personally and politically. McMurtry called Massies vote against the anti-BDS resolution pretty crazy and odd. He said he would have voted in favor of a resolution opposing and condemning the BDS movement, as well as in favor of a House resolution reaffirming U.S. support for the two-state solution.
Working across the aisle: I think what would be great if I got elected, especially for Israel, is that Ive negotiated so many deals among conflicted parties, McMurtry said, pointing to his mediation experience. I have handled cases as an attorney where Ive been an advocate and then a negotiator. So I do believe that I will be a very effective voice for Israel because of those skill sets. And that would include working with the Democrats to find compromise and mutuality on important issues.
Posted: at 6:24 am
You? she said, incredulous. Essential?
She started laughing and has been laughing pretty much ever since.
I think she has cabin fever, or maybe even a real fever.
Im no doctor, but I think the missus is a couple days shy of chasing me into the bathroom, chopping a hole in the door, then sticking her head through and shouting, Heres Johnny!
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. But the opposite is true, too.
So I decided to go outside, sit in my car and call somebody.
And just who," my wife asked, "are you going to talk to?
Nobody, I replied, walking out the door.
Nobody lives in Keene, N.H., about 60 miles away from where were staying in Vermont. Last year, he legally changed his given name, Rich Paul, to, well, Nobody.
Nobody is part of the libertarian Free State movement. He thinks government is too big and pretty much useless, and believes people should smoke more weed, which, in the middle of a pandemic, sounds pretty reasonable to me.
Nobody didnt fare so well in the mayoral election last year.
I got about 2 percent of the vote, he said.
He saw the vote as tactical.
Clearly, he said, the good citizens of Keene would prefer I be governor.
So now hes challenging Governor Chris Sununu.
I talked to Nobody for an hour, and I must be crazy, because Im pretty sure he is and he made more sense than most people Ive talked to the last few weeks.
Nobody thinks Charlie Bakers decision to keep the liquor stores open while shutting down the recreational cannabis shops is logically and morally inconsistent, and even potentially dangerous, depriving people of a substance that reduces stress at a time of heightened anxiety.
I know alcoholics who stopped drinking because it was killing them and now they smoke weed, Nobody said. If you deprive them of marijuana, theyre going to start drinking again. Thats dumb.
Nobodys critics like to dismiss him by pointing out that he has a long criminal record.
He freely admits to his run-ins with the law, saying, I cant even count how many times Ive been arrested.
But he says most of his arrests were misdemeanors, and insists some others amounted to harassment, that law enforcements interest in him is based on a false belief that he supports potentially violent subversion. He says his most serious infraction was a setup.
I sold a pound of weed to a guy I used to buy ecstasy from, he said.
The guy was wearing a wire for the feds.
The most dangerous drug cartel in America is Big Pharma," said Nobody, "and the government is their muscle.
Hmm. I cant imagine why the government hates this guy.
Undaunted, Nobody has scheduled a rally at the state capital, on Aprils Fools Day, no less, challenging what he calls Sununus arbitrary ban on gatherings of 10 or more people. He is willing to take the risk of being arrested and even infected to make a point.
Im going to update my will to say dont give me a respirator if I get the virus, because I will have brought it on myself, he said. Frankly, if it werent for the governors order, I wouldnt go to Concord, Id just stay hunkered down in my house. Im more scared of the government than the virus.
Until April 1, hes sitting tight at his house in Keene, where the lights are on and Nobodys home.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: at 6:24 am
Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation
By Andrew Marantz
During the postWorld War II era, anti-democratic extremist movements faded into political irrelevance in the Western democracies. Nazis became a subject for comedies and historical movies, communists ceased to inspire either fear or hope, and while some violent groups emerged on the fringes, they were no electoral threat. The mass media effectively quarantined extremists on both the right and the left. As long as broadcasters and the major newspapers and magazines regulated who could speak to the general public, a liberal government could maintain near-absolute free-speech rights without much to worry about. The practical reality was that extremists could reach only a limited audience, and that through their own outlets. They also had an incentive to moderate their views to gain entre into mainstream channels.
In the United States, both the conservative media and the Republican Party helped keep a lid on right-wing extremism from the end of the McCarthy era in the 1950s to the early 2000s. Through his magazine National Review, the editor, columnist, and TV host William F. Buckley set limits on respectable conservatism, consigning kooks, anti-Semites, and outright racists to the outer darkness. The Republican leadership observed the same political norms, while the liberal press and the Democratic Party denied a platform to the fringe left.
Those old norms and boundary-setting practices have now broken down on the right. No single source accounts for the surge in right-wing extremism in the United States or Europe. Rising numbers of immigrants and other minorities have triggered a panic among many native-born whites about lost dominance. Some men have reacted angrily against womens equality, while shrinking industrial employment and widening income inequality have hit less-educated workers particularly hard.
More from Paul Starr
As these pressures have increased, the internet and social media have opened up new channels for previously marginalized forms of expression. Opening up new channels was exactly the hope of the internets championsat least, it was a hope when they envisioned only benign effects. The rise of right-wing extremism together with online media now suggests the two are connected, but it is an open question as to whether the change in media is a primary cause of the political shift or just a historical coincidence.
The relationship between right-wing extremism and online media is at the heart of Antisocial, Andrew Marantzs new book about what he calls the hijacking of the American conversation. A reporter for The New Yorker, Marantz began delving into two worlds in 2014 and 2015. He followed the online world of neofascists, attended events they organized, and interviewed those who were willing to talk with him. Meanwhile, he also reported on the techno-utopians of Silicon Valley whose companies were simultaneously undermining professional journalism and providing a platform for the circulation of conspiracy theories, disinformation, hate speech, and nihilism. The online extremists, Marantz argues, have brought about a shift in Americans moral vocabulary, a term he borrows from the philosopher Richard Rorty. To change how we talk is to change who we are, Marantz writes, summing up the thesis of his book.
Antisocial weaves back and forth between the netherworld of the right and the dreamworld of the techno-utopians in the years leading up to and immediately following the 2016 U.S. election. The strongest chapters profile the demi-celebrities of the alt-right. As a Jewish reporter from a liberal magazine, Marantz is not an obvious candidate to gain the confidence of neofascists. But he has an impressive talent for drawing them out, and his portraits attend to the complexities of their life stories and the nuances of their opinions. Marantz leaves no doubt, however, about his own view of the alt-right and the responsibilities of journalists: The plain fact was the alt-right was a racist movement full of creeps and liars. If a newspapers house style didnt allow its reporters to say so, at least by implication, then the house style was preventing its reporters from telling the truth.
As Marantz describes them, the white nationalists, masculinists, and other elements of the alt-right were metamedia insurgents interested chiefly in catalyzing conflict. They took for granted that the old institutions ought to be burned to the ground, and they used the tools at their disposalnew media, especially social mediato light as many matches as possible. As they expanded their online presence, they tailored their memes to the medium. On Facebook, they posted countersignal memes to shock normies out of their complacency. On Twitter, they trolled mainstream journalists, hoping to capture wider attention. On sites such as Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan, they felt free to be more overtly vile and started calling themselves fashy or fash-ist, sometimes baiting normies by claiming that Hitler did nothing wrong.
In the old world of mass media, extremists had an incentive to temper their views to gain access to the mainstream, but now the incentives have been reversed.
The online alt-right, together with the presidential candidate they decided to champion, Donald Trump, played a key role in making white nationalist ideas part of the national conversation. Until 2016, the two major parties and national media reflected a broad consensusat least in rhetoric, if not in actual policythat America was a nation where immigrants were welcome and people of all races and religions were equal. When Republicans played the race card, they did so obliquely in deference to the consensus. Under George W. Bush, the Republican establishment was still pushing immigration reform, while the party was increasingly in opposition to legislation and succeeded in blocking it.
But a few on the far right called for Republicans to go further. They assailed the Narrative, their term for the dominant liberal ideas about racial and gender equality. Marantz highlights the role of Steve Sailer, an opinion writer who had been arguing since the early 2000s that Republicans should openly cast themselves as a white-identity party, enact pro-white policies, and take aggressive action against immigration, including the repeal of birthright citizenship. Others on the right called this the Sailer strategy. Social media gave Sailer and like-minded hereticsmany of whom Buckley had banished to the fringes of the movement years earliernew ways of disseminating their views that were more powerful than what was appearing in a print magazine like National Review.
Much of Marantzs story describes how more traditional right-wingers moved further right and brought others along with them. In 2012, a group that had previously supported the libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul started a blog called The Right Stuff, describing themselves as post-libertarian before adopting the term alt-right. As a result of the rising numbers of immigrants, they argued, libertarianism wouldnt be enough to stop the replacement of whites; stronger measures were necessary. The Right Stuffs arch, antic, floridly offensive tone, Marantz writes, attracted a growing cohort of disaffected young men who often referred to the blog as a key part of a libertarian-to-far-right pipeline, a path by which normies could advance, through a series of epiphanies, toward full radicalization.
Some of these right-wingers went all the way to out-and-proud fascism. Richard Spencer, who coined the term alternative right in 2008, advocated the creation of a white ethnostate on the North American continent, to be achieved through peaceful ethnic cleansing. At an alt-right conference just after Trumps election, Spencer declared, Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory. This last phrase, the literal translation of Sieg heil, led some members of the audience to rise with Nazi salutes. When the leaders of a movement call for peaceful ethnic cleansing, it ought not to be surprising that one of their followers decides to do it the old-fashioned way. In October 2018, just before killing 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the murderer posted a cartoon on a right-wing social media site with the caption The libertarian-to-far-right pipeline is a real thing.
Before he became Trumps campaign strategist, Steve Bannon, publisher of the web tabloid Breitbart News, said of his own site, Were the platform for the alt-right. Later, though, the association became toxic, and Bannon and others who were anxious about the company they were keeping then relabeled their position as civic nationalism rather than ethnonationalism. In the United States, however, civic nationalism has long been associated with the liberal, pluralist view that embraces ethnic diversity and immigration and insists that American citizenship and identity demand only adherence to the nations civic principles. Bannon and others in his circle were trying to appropriate the term for a movement that sought to reverse immigration and citizenship policies that have treated nonwhites as equals.
The normalization of white nationalism on the right and the growth of online media helped prepare the way for Trumps election. With his disregard for the truth and incendiary use of social media both as a candidate and as president, Trump has been the pivotal and emblematic figure in this political transformation. Repeatedly over the previous decades, as far back as 1987, he failed to get any traction when he floated the idea of running for president. The mainstream news media did not take him seriously, and his views and even his party affiliation werent clear. In 1999, he mentioned Oprah Winfrey as a possible running mate when he suggested he might run for president the next year.
In 2011, Trump again tried to stir up support for a presidential campaign, but as Marantz points out, he initially had nothing to command peoples attentionno news hook, no controversy, no meme with momentum. Then he turned to two far-right figures, Joseph Farah and Jerome Corsi from World Net Daily, a right-wing online site that had played a central role in promoting the lie that Obama came from Kenya and his Hawaiian birth certificate was a forgery. Seizing on the myth about Obamas birth, Trump generated the political attention he had always craved, though once again he decided against a presidential run. But Marantz is right that the episode had an obvious lesson: the more incendiary your message, and the more loudly and forcefully you repeated it, the more attention you could get.
Marantzs view of the online media revolves around this central point: Messages that pack a high emotional punch go viral, while low-arousal messages do not. The viral power of emotionally arousing messages is clearly part of the explanation for why extremism has flourished online at a historical moment when native-born whites, particularly men, have felt they are losing control. In the old world of mass media, extremists had an incentive to temper their views to gain access to the mainstream, but now the incentives have been reversed. High-voltage lies flourish in the environment created by social media. Not only are there no editorial gatekeepers; the platforms algorithms have amplified messages that generate user engagement, which high-arousal racist lies unquestionably do.
Whats missing from Marantzs account, however, is the critical role of Fox, Breitbart, and other major right-wing media organizations that have developed over the past quarter-century. The new mass media of the right and social media work in tandem. Social media were supposed to create wider public participation, and for better or worse thats what we have on the right: a system of participatory propaganda (as some analysts have begun to call it), involving both media with large audiences and legions of lesser influencers.
When the major social media companies began in the early 2000s, their founders did not see themselves as having any responsibility for the content on their sites. The culture of the tech industry has long had an affinity for libertarian ideas that provide a ready justification for a hands-off policy. An absolutist view of free speech has also been economically advantageous for the companies because it relieves them of any obligation to hire the employees that would be needed to monitor all the content users post.
But since 2016, the revelations about the complicity of the tech industry in spreading disinformation have forced the platforms to make adjustments. Reddit serves as Marantzs chief case study in the techno-utopians retreat from free-speech absolutism. Founded in 2005, the company hosts forums (subreddits) for virtually unlimited and unrestrained posting of opinions, images, and other content. According to one of its founders, Steve Huffman, the site was built around the principle of No editors. The people are the editors. In its early days, it sold T-shirts with the slogan Freedom from the press.
When Marantz visited its offices in San Francisco in October 2017, Reddit had a million subreddits and was the fourth-highest-traffic site in the United States after Google, Facebook, and YouTube. Huffman, now the ceo, had become alarmed about the presence of neofascist activists on the site. Just a few weeks earlier, white supremacists had marched in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After some deliberation, Reddit slightly modified its existing policy against encouraging or inciting violence, adding language enjoining participants not to glorify or call for physical harm against an individual or a group of people or the abuse of animals. Marantz was invited to observe a group of Reddit employees as they sat around a table eating snacks and making decisions about which subreddits to ban109 of them that day, such as r/KillAllJews and r/KilltheJews as well as r/SexWithDogs. But the scene Marantz describes only raises more questions: How were those subreddits accepted in the first place? What others with equally noxious content survived because they had less explicit names? Is it even possible for a company with a million forums to exercise responsible control?
Social media companies have created new and powerful means of political communication without the traditions of editorial responsibility that in liberal democracies have helped make the media into partners of democracy. The companies have now taken some steps to limit the damage they have been doing. Facebook has taken down billions of fake accounts and recently adopted measures against coordinated inauthentic behavior to counteract disinformation campaigns by both domestic sources and foreign governments. But it has also declined to block lies in political advertising.
The techno-utopians promised disruption, and they have delivered it. What they havent delivered is the ability to prevent that disruption from undermining liberal democratic institutions. The online media havent produced the right-wing surge all by themselves, and Marantzs book doesnt persuade me that the online right-wing extremists have changed who Americans are by changing how we talk. But the changes in media and politics have shown us something about what the United States can become. Fascism is a real and present danger in America. Everything we do now politically has to take that into account.
Go here to see the original:
How the Right Went Far-Right - The American Prospect
Posted: March 24, 2020 at 5:33 am
Margaret Thatcher was a self-described libertarian from that era. She did something quite different with the single tax problem; she altered the class structure of the country.
No single piece of legislation has enabled the transfer of so much capital wealth from the State to the people. MP Michael Heseltine on the sale of publicly owned housing (Right to Buy), UK (1980)
The introduction of the Right to Buy policy in the 1980s can be considered one of the greatest intergenerational injustices in recent political history. David Kingman at the Intergenerational Foundation, UK (2017)
The Single Tax broke through in elections on two occasions. In 1886, Henry George ran for mayor of New York, leading a party of labour unions, Catholics, and Georgites with a land value tax platform. The Pope himself took part in stopping him. Then, in 1906, in Great Britain, the Liberal Party, propelled by an historic re-emergence of the land reform movement, won a landslide general election victory. The House of Lords sacrificed its legislative veto to halt land value taxation.Two elections, two crises.
The single tax (i.e. the shifting of taxes from labor and capital onto land value) had met formidable opposition. The single tax as something one can vote for ended in Great Britain soon after the Great Warat that time of revolution, imperial dissolution, regicide, epidemic and economic dislocation. Very close to home, Ireland, where the land question had raged for decades, was at war with the British Empire. From Londons point of view, it was not a time for experiments.
The [Liberal-Conservative] coalition dug the grave wide and deep. They flung into it the Land Taxes of Mr Lloyd George, the Land Valuation of Mr Lloyd George and the Land Policy of Mr Lloyd George. They dumped earth upon it. They stamped down the ground over the grave. They set up a stone to commemorate their victory for testimony to the passing stranger. Here buried forever, lies the Land Crusade.Never, it would seem, was a cause so sensationally and utterly destroyed. C. F. G. Masterman, politician and commentator (1920) quoted by FML Thompson in The Land Question in Britain, 1750-1950
Exactly the same thing happened on the Left. The Left was very closely linked to Georgism. A majority of Fabian-socialists either were or had been Georgists, and the Fabian society was formed by activists minted by Henry George himself, by his speeches and debates in the 1880s. Years of trying to reconcile Georgism and socialism followed, but the vanguard of the Left then also abruptly dropped the single tax.
The attempt to put into force any such crude universal measurewhich, it may be explained, is very far from being contemplated by the Labour Partywould inevitably jeopardise the very substance of the nation. B. and S. Webb, A Constitution for a Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain (1921),quoted in Peter dA. Jones Henry George and British Socialism.
The Representation of the People Act (1918) had added millions to the electorate. The pre-war land crusade, which was especially intense in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, had driven three general election victories in a row. What might it do now, with so many new landless voters? For the sakes of both the old right and the new left, liberalism, this thought-out, land-centric incarnation, had to be buried.
Disappearance was, indeed, achieved, but the burial was a hoax. The Single Tax to this day, lays living, etherized upon a table. The patient is tended to, kept under, by a staff of ex-devotees; lords, liberals, leftists unable to let go completely. Many were libertarians. Libertarianism was borne on the Georgist wave, just as socialism was. But unlike socialism, libertarianism naturally developed on Georgist lines: both are classically liberal and anti-monopoly. Albert J. Nock, the greatest libertarian critic of The State, had no doubt:
[Henry George] was the only [reformer] who believed in freedom, or (as far as I could see) had any approximation to an intelligent idea of what freedom is, and of the economic prerequisites to attaining it.
But post-World War II libertarianism also reached for the anaesthetic. A heavy price was paid. In order to sever roots and accept in toto the current system of state-founded, state-protected land monopoly libertarianism had to sacrifice its first principle: self-ownership. It also had to withdraw its original and most powerful critique of The State. In 1939 the author of Taxation is Robbery, Frank Chodorov,had written: The socialization of rent would destroy taxes. The State (as we know it) would disappear.
That taxation is intolerable, of course, remains central to libertarian rhetoric. But the rhetoric is thin. Does libertarianism today claim, as Chodorov did, that taxation itself can be abolished, transforming the State into something else, free of systemic privilege, i.e. minarchy? Would it say this: The [modern doctrine of taxation] does not distinguish between property acquired through privilege and property acquired through production. It cannot, must not, do that, for in so doing it would question the validity of taxation as a whole. If taxation were abolished, for instance, the cost of maintaining the social services of a community would fall on rentthere is no third sourceand the privilege of appropriating rent would disappear
The answer is no. In 1957, a former student of Georgism, Murray Rothbard, stepped in and ended the single tax debate within mainstream libertarianism. He simply denied the existence of rent: The first consequence of the single tax, then, is that no revenue would accrue from it.
Despite the misunderstanding, he got away with it. Chodorov had placed the single tax at the center of the libertarian critique of the state. The prolific Rothbard, the quietist, the etherizer, overwrites Taxation is Robbery. The meme taxation is theft was then appropriated and etherized and has become a mantra. State transformation via tax reform is a cancelled option; the most a libertarian can aspire to now is tax evasion: We should welcome every new loophole, shelter, credit, or exemption, and work, not to shut them down but to expand them to include everyone else, including ourselves.
Such was the transition to Royal Libertarianism.
Margaret Thatcher was a self-described libertarian from that era. She did something quite different with the single tax problem; she altered the class structure of the country. Before Thatcher became Prime Minister, she was grilled on land economics and the unearned increment by William F. Buckley (a Georgist) on television. She skillfully tiptoed around the subject but did, when pressed, give a nod in the direction of the single tax. She clearly understood the Georgist diagnosis of economic malaise. However, a few years later, after the election, she administered the anti-Georgist cure. The policy was called Right to Buy, the sale of publicly-owned real estate (council houses and, crucially, the value of their locations) to tenants. Around two million took up the offer. A boom in the wider real estate market followed. The government, in the Parliamentary debate on the bill, was frank: No one can dispute that the home owner in recent decades has gained immensely from the fact of ownership. The gain has accrued partially from the judgement and thrift associated with the saving to buy, but even more from the tax-free windfall gains that have accrued to virtually everyone once he has bought his own home.
Heseltine then went on to describe how the tenant paying rent (i.e. the non-landowner) is in a very different boat. The tenant receives no benefit from rising land value. On the contrary, the renter pays higher rents. This, of course, is the Georgist thesis on inequality in a nutshell, presented as common fact. But instead of using that fact to advocate for the single tax, it is used to advertise real estate:
There is in this country a deeply ingrained desire for home ownership. The Government believe that this spirit should be fostered. It reflects the wishes of the people, ensures the wide spread of wealth through societyand stimulates the attitudes of independence and self-reliance that are the bedrock of a free society.
The aim was to create an incentive society, a property owning democracy. The home-owner was a variation on libertarianisms entrepreneur ideal-type. This entrepreneur does not see Chodorovs distinction between production and privilege: between an innovator-entrepreneur (production), and a rentier-entrepreneur (privilege).
The Bill has two main objectives: first, to give people what they want, and, secondly, to reverse the trend of ever-increasing dominance of the State over the life of the individual,Heseltine said in 1980.
The language is deflecting; it is the people who want the expansion of the land windfall. Thatcher was following Rothbard to the letter; she achieved the radical expansion of a tax loophole. It was a brilliant move, and it laid in a voting block hostile (we are told) to any attempt to revive the sleeping patient.
In recent years, the results of Right to Buy have been examined. The first Right to Buy house, a two bedroomed terrace was sold in 1980 to its council tenants. Located near enough to London, this is what happened to its price:
1980: 8,000 (average wage 6,000)
2020 301,000 (average wage 36,000)
332,000 (current est.)
That price rise, that increment, was privatized in 1980, an act of enclosure. However, in widening land monopoly, Thatcher ignored the law of monopoly: The big eventually devour the small. The attempt to engineer a permanent property owning middle class has failed.
40% Of Right-To-Buy Homes Now In Hands Of Private Landlords.
In The Huffington Post, 2017
For 25-34 year-olds earning between 22k and 30k per year, home ownership fell to just 27% in 2016 from 65% two decades ago.
In The Guardian, 2018
Adults in their mid-30s to mid-40s are three times more likely to rent than 20 years ago.
In The Guardian, 2020
Margaret Thatcher engineered a new landowner class large enough to keep the Single Tax out of politics. But she used the poison as the cure. The home-owning class is now shrinking. Monopoly feeds on monopoly. The patient lays etherized.
Darren Iversen is an independent student of Georgist history in England.
Posted: at 5:33 am
The Federal Reserves bag of tricks is now empty. Politicians, however, always have more lies to tell about the economy. Voters might get a shot at hearing the truth, however, if the Libertarian Party nominates the right candidate.
Its consistently a top priority for voters, even during the high points of this fake recovery from the 2008 recession. The economy is closely tied to other issues like health care and education, with their high costs due to government price controls and red tape.
The economy is the essential issue for a candidate to speak on, especially a libertarian one. Only a libertarian can get at the crux of the matter the Federal Reserve and its vacuous fiat money system causing madness in markets and the wealth stagnation of Americas middle class.
Beyond their pocketbooks, voters stand to also gain clarity of mind on so many other crises that fuel the governments growth in power. Thanks to the Feds easy money, U.S. militarism can run wild abroad and at home, well beyond what citizens would naturally put up with under direct taxation.
It takes a special communicator to raise the Fed issue and command attention. Only Dr. Ron Paul grew his crowds and audiences on his call to abolish the Federal Reserve, making it a populist campaign theme while educating the youth, referring them to Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and other heroic economists.
In 2020, there is an effort within the Libertarian Party to do that again. Jacob Hornberger, one of six candidates vying for the partys nomination for president, seems to be leading the primary race in no small part due to his ability to speak on the Fed in an educational and exciting way.
Hornbergers track record goes back decades, founding the Future of Freedom Foundation in 1989. It grew with the Ron Paul Revolution movement, so many libertarian activists see him as something of a rightful heir.
End the Fed and separate money and the state, reads Hornbergers campaign website. The Federal Reserve is nothing more than a socialist central-planning agency.
Like Paul, Hornberger can connect the dots between Fed policy and housing, education, and other issues typically treated as wholly unrelated. This holistic approach contrasts with previous Libertarian Party presidential campaigns that attempted to dilute libertarianism down to fiscally conservative, socially liberal.
His nomination is no sure thing, however. The way the Libertarian Party decides its nominee is not by primary electoral victories, but rather a direct vote of the party delegates at the national convention. That event takes place the weekend of May 22nd in Austin, Texas.
The state contests until then will give a sense of what Libertarian voters support, and so far, Hornberger is leading with about 29 percent of the total vote after winning five of eight elections.
Markets are crashing as the Federal Reserve runs out of bubble-blowing tricks. President Donald Trump blames his own pick for Fed chairman for not printing money fast enough, while he also claims to have created the greatest economy ever.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are also full of lies, pushing essentially the exact same policy as Trump, though with more taxes and bureaucracy.
Whoever the Libertarian Party nominates, he wont be allowed to debate on the same stage as the Republican and Democratic nominees. But the party does have ballot access, and the internet isnt quite dead yet, so if there is any hope for voters to hear the truth about the economy, the Libertarian Party will be largely responsible for keeping it alive.
See the original post:
On the 2020 Campaign Trail, Where's the Truth on the Economy? - The Liberator Online
Posted: at 5:33 am
The profreedom and antiwar movement lost one of its most dedicated champions this past weekend. Jon Basil Utley was born in the Soviet Union in 1934. His Britishborn mother, Freda, had gone there as aprocommunist intellectual and writer. But after his father was spirited away to one of Stalins gulags (where he was executed in 1938), Freda fled with young Jon and became an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union, including in several bestselling books. They eventually emigrated to the United Stateswhere Freda hosted meetings of prominent anticommunists in their home. That is where Jon met many leading intellectuals and activists of the Cold War era, connections that lasted alifetime. He became an accomplished writer in his own right, as well as asuccessful businessman. He traveled extensively.
Jon was anearly ubiquitous presence at DC gatheringsand globally. He attended many events at Cato, as well as Grover Norquists Wednesday meetings at Americans for Tax Reform. He supported Reason magazine and the Reason Foundation, and many other libertarian causes. And he was proud to be associated with The American Conservative magazine, where he served on the board of directors, and as publisher.
Whenever Iencountered Jon at one of these meetings, he would always greet me with awarm toothy smile and afirm handshake. He made me feel so welcomed at these gatherings but he did the same for everyone else as well, as though he appreciated every single person in attendance.
But his warmth and affection for those around him concealed adeep and abiding hatred of Americas wars, and arelated sadness at his fellow Americans apparent disinterest in the suffering these wars caused for innocent men, women, and children all around the world. In meetings, he would often ask questions, or make comments, in his soft, almost lyrical, voice. Most of the time, his remarks conveyed his skepticism of these wars, even as he knew that many of those around him (mostly conservatives, but also some libertarians) wished desperately that he would just sit down and shut up. But that just wasnt his style.
Jon was apeacemaker within the oftenfractious liberty movement, too. His sadness about Americas wars was perhaps only exceeded by his disappointment that his friends in the antiwar movement were fighting with one another. He was anatural bridgebuilder with avery wide circle of acquaintancesand always on the lookout to make introductions and build alliances.
Last year, when it presented Jon alifetime achievement award, The American Conservative prepared afitting tribute video. Iknow and respect many of the people who offered their reflections on why Jon was worthy of such an award. TACs Executive Editor Kelly Beaucar Vlahos called him one of the bravest people that Iknow in Washington. To Ambassador C. Boyden Gray, Jon was one of the most gentle, generous men Ive ever met. My friend John Henry declared, simply, Jon is America.
This was particularly true in the post9/11 era, when conservatives, in particular, really didnt want to hear one of their own questioning the wisdom of George W. Bushs various foreign warsespecially the war in Iraq. Jon would be the only person to stand up and say the Iraq war made no sense, John Henry recalled, when everybody else was saluting, [and chanting] USA! USA!
The Heritage Foundations Lee Edwards counted Jons willingness to stand up for the truth as he sees it, regardless of what others say as his greatest achievement.
All of the wise men of the conservative movement, Edwards explained, believed that the United States should be waging war in Iraq. They would listen as Jon would question why. Then hed sit down. Afew moments of awkward silence typically ensued before the meeting moved onto the next topic.
But, after the luncheon was over, Edwards continued, people would come up to him and say Jon, keep saying that. Keep asking those questionsI havent got enough guts to do it, but you have.
Edwards noted that when the weapons of mass destruction werent found in Iraq, and most Americans came to realize that the war had been aterrible mistake, Jon didnt go around saying I was right. Itold you so and that, too, was to his great credit. Edwards congratulated Utley for speaking up when others were timid.
Jon was alongtime generous donor to the Cato Institute, and for that we are all grateful. But his influence ran much deeper that that. He was awarm and wonderful friend, and an inspiration to those of us who followed in his footsteps.
During this period of COVID-19, when all public gatherings have been postponed or canceled, we have more urgent things to attend to. But, when things return to normal, and Ifor the first time attend one of those meetings where Iwould have expected to see Jons kind smile and reassuring presence, Ifear that that is when the true depths of this loss will really be felt.
Rest in peace, my friend. Your legacy lives on.
Posted: at 5:33 am
The coronavirus doesnt respect national borders, political ideologies or conventional thinking. As governments scramble to try to contain the pandemic and mitigate the fallout on economies and societies, the previously unthinkable is suddenly transformed into the essential. Policy ideas that were decried as madness yesterday are being redefined as the only sane response to this emergency. Positions once held to be immutable are being tossed into a great bonfire of discarded orthodoxies.
This is an especially bracing challenge for politicians of the right, they who have been animated for decades by the belief that the only good government is a small one and that there is no problem to which the market cannot supply the answer. A philosophy rooted in the conviction that individualism and competition are the wellsprings of healthy and productive societies is found wanting when confronted by a crisis that can only be endured and resolved by rediscovering the virtues of collectivism and solidarity.
You can see some of the tensions this creates in the strained and exhausted face of Boris Johnson whenever he appears at the now daily news conferences. This instinctive libertarian, who used to earn his living by penning newspaper columns ridiculing the nanny state is being impelled to introduce social controls of a kind not seen since the Second World War. Some of the constraints go further than that time of national trial. They didnt shut the boozers during the Blitz. He finds himself, and clearly hates having to be, the prime minister responsible for taking away the ancient and inalienable right of every freeborn Englishman to go to the pub.
As the beer taps are closed, the spending spigots are being turned up in a way never seen before. The Tory leader who only recently won an election in part by attacking Jeremy Corbyn as the last of the big spenders will now preside over the most dramatic escalation in government expenditure since the 1940s to try to save the economy from being ravaged by a depression.
For government and voters alike, this crisis is a rushed tutorial in the case for the active and well-resourced state. Only government can take the exceptional measures required to curtail human activity in the hope that it will curb the spread of infection. Only government has the capacity to effectively perform as an insurer of last resort for the huge number of companies facing extinction unless they receive state aid. Only government can provide a safety net for workers deprived of the ability to earn their living because they are ill or trying to do the right thing by isolating themselves or because their employer is in trouble.
Welfare is bad. Balance the books. It is not the role of government to bail out failing companies. All those beliefs long worshipped in the churches of conservatism are being sacrificed in the fierce urgency of the now.
When events are moving at such an extraordinary pace, it can be easy to lose appreciation of the boggling scale of this transformation. Rishi Sunaks first budget was just 10 days ago, but already feels like an artefact from another era. There was a bit of a collective swoon among Tory MPs at the 12bn he initially allocated to dealing with the virus. What he then called unprecedented intervention now looks like small change. Just six days later, he was back to announce a package of tax holidays, grants and business loans worth 350bn, almost 30 times as much as he had originally proposed. The chancellor declared this to be proof that the government would do whatever it takes only to be told that it would take a great deal more to see us through this crisis. The clamour came not just from opposition politicians, trades unions and charities.
Forced to decide between Tory doctrine and food riots, Mr Sunak made the right choice
One of the arresting tableaux of the past few days has been Bernard Jenkin and other representatives of the Thatcherite right adding their voices to those of more centrist Tories such as Greg Clark, the former business secretary, to demand much broader help. Under that pressure, Mr Sunak came up with what was effectively his third emergency budget in less than a fortnight, when he announced higher welfare payments and a mammoth programme to subsidise the wages of workers who would otherwise be facing redundancy. This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy, remarked a man once known as a fiscal hawk as he dispatched another barrow-load of Tory sacred beliefs on to the bonfire of orthodoxies.
He presented a confident face designed to mask the profound fear within government about the consequences of not taking the extraordinary step of making the state responsible for much of the economys wage bills. The alternative was to see a massive and rapid surge in unemployment that would have overwhelmed the welfare system and threatened serious civil disorder. Forced to decide between Tory doctrine and food riots, Mr Sunak made the right choice.
Similar things are happening around the world as governments battle to prevent an inevitable downturn from sliding into a deep depression. Donald Trump is even talking about sending a cheque from Washington direct to every American.
This emergency differs in key respects to that of the Great Crash of 2008, but some useful lessons can be drawn from the last global crisis. One is that governments and central banks have to act quickly, decisively and at scale to give confidence to markets, households and businesses that the state has their back and that it is possible for people to plan for a future when the crisis is over. Near-zero interest rates, quantitative easing and bank bailouts, the tools used during the financial crisis, did avert a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s, but it was only slowly that people came to appreciate the negative social consequences that stretched wealth inequalities and stoked a wide and deep public alienation. The spectacle of shameless financiers walking away unscathed from a wreck of their own reckless making and then going on to further enrich themselves fed a righteous rage among the less affluent folk who felt the squeeze of subsequent austerity. We all remember what happened in 2008, Mr Johnson remarked last week, alluding to the debates within his cabinet about the dangers of a massive public backlash if the government is seen only to be looking after big business. Time and again, he tells companies that the government is standing by them so they can stand by their employees.
There are critics who say that the gargantuan amounts of government spending being fired at this crisis are too scattergun. Money will end up in the hands of badly run or badly behaved companies. Money will go to some who dont really need it. Money will be wasted. To which we can only say: so be it. There is no time for government to develop sophisticated schemes with complex delivery mechanisms. The need is to make financial assistance available as simply and swiftly as possible. This crisis calls not for the snipers rifle but the bazooka.
The hope it can be no more than a hope at this stage of uncertainty is that a sharp dive in the global economy will be followed by a strong bounce-back when restrictions can be lifted and millions go back to work and return to spending. But that can only happen if there are still businesses left standing.
Ministers and officials cannot say how much all the emergency measures will cost, because they cant know. We can safely say that the sums will be huge. Robert Chote, the director of the Office for Budget Responsibility, would normally have something very chiding to say about a government prepared to let the deficit rip in such a staggering fashion. Now he observes: When the fire is large enough you just spray the water and worry about it later.
Fiscal disciplinarians on the right are largely swallowing it on the grounds that there is no alternative. Libertarians of the state-shrinking and welfare-loathing disposition are reconciling themselves to measures that theyd normally hate with the thought that they are temporary impositions that will be lifted one day. Once the virus is brought under control, either by the production of a vaccine or other measures, then politics can go back to business as usual.
I rather doubt that. While it is far too early to make any confident predictions about the longterm ways in which this crisis will reshape society, it has already upended many of the assumptions that have governed politics here and elsewhere for decades. It is hard to believe that a once-in-a-century event will not have some once-in-a-century consequences.
Andrew Rawnsley is Chief Political Commentator of the Observer
Posted: March 5, 2020 at 5:58 pm
To the Editor,
The Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) staff and board of directors resoundingly applaud the Indianapolis City-County Council for unanimously adopting the Special Resolution on Feb. 24, 2020, in support of a public commitment to addressing the historical inequities of race, place and identity throughout our City-County government. For far too long, racist systems, institutions and structures have not been inadvertent oversights, but intentional barriers put and kept in place to extinguish opportunity and humanity from people of color, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, families experiencing poverty and many other marginalized populations.
This has led to generations of Hoosiers with purposefully designed inequitable access to education, jobs, housing, health care and so much more. This has led to Black residents of Indianapolis, on average, dying up to 14 years earlier than white residents because of these inequities. This has led to the vast majority of Black students in all 11 school districts in our city to have lower academic outcomes than their white counterparts. This has led to the average Black worker in Indianapolis making 56-cents-on-the-dollar of the average white worker. This has led to an unforgivable percentage of Black men in Indiana being incarcerated five times more than whites and families lives ruined.
The City-County Council and Mayor Hogsetts commitment to dismantling racist policies and practices that lead to these racial disparities is an amazing first step. Thank you for working across departments and agencies to identify the specific issues to address and to name and measure key indicators toward success. CICF was proud to initiate this work by providing grant funding for dozens of municipal leaders to go through the first phase of Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) training. We pledge our continued support and vocal leadership as we all must work together to dismantle the barriers and empower our neighbors for a truly inclusive city where all residents have an equitable opportunity to reach their full potential no matter place, race or identity.
Gregory F. Hahn, Chair
Central Indiana Community Foundation
Brian Payne, President and CEO
Central Indiana Community Foundation
To the Editor,
Economic Freedom Fighters Indiana (EFFI) is in the process of becoming an independent party with a specific agenda for people of African descent. To realize this goal, we have approached the Indiana State Election Division (IED) concerning having ballot access. Dale Simmons, Indiana Election Division co-counsel, told us the following:
In Indiana, currently the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian Parties have all established automatic ballot access. The Libertarian Party established automatic ballot access across the state by first running a candidate for Secretary of State. Initially, the Libertarian Partys Secretary of State candidate got on the ballot by obtaining signatures on petitions in the amount of 2% of the vote cast for Secretary of State in Indiana. These signatures were certified as valid signatures by the county voter registration offices in the counties where the signatures were obtained. Since the Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State received at least 2% of the votes cast for Indiana Secretary of State in the election, the Libertarian Party had automatic ballot access for the following four years.
We were up for the task and asked for the petitions. Mr. Simmons informed us it was the IEDs tradition not to give out the petitions so far in advance of the Secretary of State election. After negotiations Angie Nussmeyer, co-director, Indiana Election Division summarized with the following:
In our conversation, I noted that the CAN-19 for 2022 might be approved in July-ish 2021, or the year preceding the 2022 election, if tradition holds. You had asked if our office would consider releasing the 2022 CAN-19 petition form in July of 2020, which would be after the June 30, 2020, filing deadline for 2020 minor party or independent candidates to submit the 2020 version of the CAN-19 to the county VR officials for review and certification to gain access to the November 2020 ballot.
Im certainly open to your request, though I cannot unilaterally make this determination. In case this hasnt been brought up before, state law requires that both co-directors are to approve forms, and case law stipulates that both co-directors must agree on a position in order for it to be the official position of the election division.
EFFI feels we are being treated differently than the Libertarian Party was treated. So on Sept. 3, 2019 we filed a civil rights complaint with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. Tradition is not the law. There is no legal reason for IED to not release the petition. However, if IED agrees to release the CAN-19 petition to us on June 1, 2020, then we would strongly consider withdrawing our complaint.
Elder Mmoja Ajabu
Founder, Economic Freedom Fighters Indiana
Posted: at 5:58 pm
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North Carolinas primary electionis Tuesday. In case youre new to casting a ballot, here are tips before you head to your polling place, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections:
1. Whats a primary?
In a primary election, voters select a political partys candidate to appear on the ballot for the November general election.
2. Who can vote?
Voters who are registered with one of the five recognized parties (Constitution, Democratic, Green, Libertarian, or Republican) can cast a ballot in that partys primary election.
Unaffiliated voters can ask for a Democratic, Libertarian,orRepublican ballot, or nonpartisan ballot, if available.
Non-affiliated voters cantvote in the Constitution or Green parties primary, as those they are closed to independents.
3. When can you vote?
Polls across North Carolina are open from 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Voters in line at 7:30 p.m. will be able to cast a ballot. Lines tend to be longer before and after normal business hours.
4. Where to vote
Determine your polling place at the State Board website: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/PPLkup/.
5. Which contests and candidates are on your ballot?
Sample ballots are available online athttps://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/.
6. Casting a ballot:You can fill out a paper ballot or use a ballot marking device that produces a paper record.
If you hand-mark a paper ballot, completely fill in the oval to the left of each candidate or selection using a black pen.
If you tear, deface or wrongly mark the ballot, you can ask for a replacement. Be sure to verify your selections before putting the ballot into the tabulator, and make sure youve voted all pages of the ballot.
7. No same-day registration
Same-day registration is not available on Tuesday. Verify your registration status and political party affiliation at the state or local board of elections website.
8. Help for voters
If you need assistance at the polls, you can ask for it. Voters who cant enter the polling place can vote curbside. Once inside the polling place, voters who experience difficulties should request help from a poll worker.
9. No photo ID necessary
A federal district court blocked North Carolinas voter photo ID requirement in December and the injunction will stay in place until further notice.
The State Court of Appeals also temporarily blocked the law on Feb. 18.
10. Behave yourself
Voter intimidation is a crime. Voters who feel harassed or intimidated should alert an election official immediately or submit a report to the State Elections Board online at:https://goo.gl/v1yGew.