Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nixon and the Grape

When Jack L. Davies, a graduate of both Harvard and Stanford, organized fourteen other investors to join him in purchasing a vineyard in 1965, he probably never guessed the manner in which their wines would become famous.

By early 1969, Richard Nixon was in the White House, and by early 1972, Nixon was making a historic journey: the first visit by a U.S. president to communist mainland China. Nixon had only one meeting with Mao, but many with Chinese premier Zhou Enlai.

Both Nixon and the Chinese placed emphasis on ceremony and protocol. They visited historic locations and arranged for full media coverage. Concerning one meal, Leon D. Adams writes:

In February 1972, Schramsberg Champagne became world-famous overnight. President Richard M. Nixon had flown an American champagne to Peking to serve at his historic, globally-televised banquet for Red Chinese Premier Chou Enlai. On the day of the banquet a Washington newspaper columnist identified the shipment as thirteen cases of Schramsberg, Nixon’s favorite champagne. Press, TV, and radio spread the name, Davies’s story, and the fame of Napa Valley wine.

The results of Nixon’s trip to China were a gradual normalization of the diplomatic relationship between the United States and mainland communist China, and the sudden popularity of Schramsberg sparkling wine.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Haldore Hanson - Inconspicuous Danger

During the years of the Soviet Union, infiltration and the planting of subversives into various positions in the United States government was a standard tactic of the KGB. The list of such moles, when mostly, although not entirely, revealed after the fall of the Soviet Union, was longer than most observers had suspected.

In addition to such plants, however, were those who freely supported the Soviet cause without being directly employed by the Soviet intelligence agencies. These individuals were equally dangerous to the lives and safety of United States citizens.

The tension between liberty and security was highlighted as the United States worked to preserve freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly, even while it worked to protect itself from the Soviet espionage apparatus which aimed to destroy the United States.

An interesting example is offered by Haldore Hanson, a pro-communist author who came to the attention of the United States government in early 1950. Merely writing a book which was favorable to the expansion of communism in Asia was no crime. But there was evidence which suggested, if it did not at first prove, that Hanson was involved in a more direct connection with the Soviet government.

Hanson had lived in Peiping (now known as ‘Peking’ or ‘Beijing’) and had substantial contact with Chinese communist leaders. At this time, the Chinese communists were solidly in league with the Soviet communists. Two historians, L. Brent Bozell and William F. Buckley Jr., report that:

For three years Hanson had taught school and had written as a freelancer, mostly while living in Peiping. The turning point in his career had come in 1937, when Japanese and Chinese troops clashed at the Marco Polo Bridge: he then took a job as war correspondent with the Associated Press. Two years later, at the age of twenty-seven, he published a book called Humane Endeavor.

Hanson’s writing career would include working with Edgar Snow and Helen Foster Snow. The latter used the pseudonym ‘Nym Wales,’ and both were known members of the Communist Party. In addition, Louis Budenz, who had been a well-connected member of the Communist Party, testified to Senator Brien McMahon of Connecticut that Haldore Hanson was a member of the Communist Party.

In Hanson’s book, he clearly expressed his pro-communist views, and portrayed the communists sympathetically, while depicting the non-communists as, at best, mediocre. The book also apparently influenced John Service, a State Department employee. Concerning this, M. Stanton Evans writes:

The book was full of plaudits for the Red Chinese similar to those expressed a few years later by John Service, a Hanson friend and sometime roommate. In the 1930s, a united front was in effect between the Reds and Chiang Kai-shek against Japan, and in this context Chiang merited some kind words from Hanson, as well as some that weren’t so kind. However, Hanson showed no similar ambiguity toward the Red Chinese, on whom he showered lavish kudos.

Because he was an United States citizen, Hanson certainly had the right to freely believe, write, and publish whatever he wanted. But being a communist during the Soviet era was not merely a matter of expressing certain political views. Members of the CP took action.

In the early 1950s, to be a member of the Communist Party was not like being a member of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. The Communist Party was not merely a subversive organization, it was a clandestine organization, involved in compromising military security, subversively influencing U.S. policy, and even sabotage. It was a direct threat to the lives and safety of United States citizens. To be a member of the Communist Party was to be advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government, the end of American civil and human rights, and destruction of the American physical infrastructure. To be a member of the Communist Party was to advocate, plan, and work toward the deaths of many innocent civilians.

The Communist Party, in the 1950s, was not merely a group which advocated free speech, free thinking, and free debate about policy questions. The Communist Party advocated violence, destruction, and the end of civil rights and of human rights. The Communist Party was organically and directly connected to Moscow and to the Kremlin’s actions, e.g., the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians in an artificially-created famine.

Haldore Hanson was connected to this Communist Party, and in the meantime, Haldore Hanson had obtained a job in the State Department. Hanson’s case contained an added urgency because he was now working within the United States government, where he might gain access to sensitive information and might have input into the thought process of policymakers.

At one point, however, it seemed that suspicions about Hanson might be wrong: in one hearing, Senator Bourke Hickenlooper of Iowa questioned Earl Browder about Haldore Hanson. Browder was a former member of the Communist Party, and while a member, had engaged in communications with the KGB and the NKVD. Browder worked with Philip Jaffe, who was an editor of a periodical called Amerasia. Jaffe and his fellow editors were found to be in possession of classified documents from the OSS and other branches of the United States government. Jaffe and Browder had met with a highly-placed Chinese Communist named Tung Pi-Wu (Dong Biwu). Clearly, Browder was well-placed in the networks of the international communist conspiracy, and Senator Hickenlooper wanted to hear what Browder said about Haldore Hanson.

Hickenlooper then questioned Browder about the meeting at Philip Jaffe’s New York home five years before this, attended by Browder and Red Chinese official Tung Pi-wu. When Hickenlooper asked if either John Carter Vincent or John Stewart Service had been at this meeting, Browder refused to answer. Hickenlooper then read a list of names, nine in all, asking if they were known to Browder as CP members. Two of the people on the list were Dorothy Kenyon and Haldore Hanson. In these cases, as in others, Browder said, “I refuse to answer.” This caused great distress to McMahon and Tydings, both of whom implored the witness to reconsider. Appealing to standards of “fairness and truth,” Tydings at last got Browder to say neither Kenyon nor Hanson “had any organized connection to the Communist Party.”

This latter statement seemed, at first, to possibly exonerate Hanson. The 1995 release of information from the the “Venona” project - finally declassified after the fall of the Soviet Union - confirmed Browder’s resume as an important Soviet agent. There was even some evidence that Browder may have had a hand in planning the assassination of Leon Trotsky. So his statement that that Hanson had had no “organized connection to the Communist Party” would seem to carry weight.

But one historian, M. Stanton Evans, noted Browder’s curious qualification in the statement: “organized.”

If Hanson had no “organized” connection to the CP, did he have some other type of connection? It was known that the Soviets sometimes used casual social connections to infiltrate various agencies. Along these lines, M. Stanton Evans writes:

The locution used here by Browder, who was careful in his choice of words, seemed odd, speaking of an “organized connection.” Did this mean there was some other kind of connection on the part of Kenyon or Hanson to the Communist Party? Browder’s way of putting the matter cried out for clarification, but no effort of this nature was made by an inert committee.

Senator Hickenlooper, and the others investigating the matter, failed to follow up on this tantalizing clue.

Informally linked with the Amerasia periodical was the Institute of Pacific Relations, a network of business and academic leaders around the Pacific Rim. IPR had been infiltrated by confirmed Soviet agents, including T.A. Bisson. Two historians, M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein, note that:

Among U.S. officials who at various times served on the board of the IPR were such prestigious mainstream figures as General George C. Marshall and Undersecretary of State Sumner Wells, plus others who were of lesser stature but in their way important. Government staffers who served as IPR trustees included Soviet agents of influence Hiss and Currie and State Department official John Carter Vincent. Meanwhile, Owen Lattimore and Joseph Barnes, both on the IPR payroll in the 1930s, would become government information specialists in the war years. Others connected to the IPR included State Department Far East experts Michael Greenberg and Haldore Hanson and Soviet intelligence asset T.A. Bisson, who like others mentioned shows up in the pages of Venona.

There are many questions about Haldore Hanson. The most relevant one is not whether or not he was a member of the Communist Party, or whether he was an active Soviet agent, but whether the State Department was guilty of negligence for not having discerned him as a security risk.

Perhaps Hanson was neither a CP member nor a Soviet agent. He was, however, beyond all doubt surrounded by, and in constant contact with, both. They could, perhaps even without his knowledge, use him, either to gain information or to steer U.S. policy decisions.

The case of Haldore Hanson reveals a lack of care, and a lack of due diligence, in the hiring processes used by the State Department.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dorothy Kenyon: an Unexpected Danger

When the Soviet Union’s spy network was active in the United States, the distinction between an active Soviet agent and an unwittingly utilized instrument was not always obvious. Such was the case of Judge Dorothy Kenyon.

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, when many of the Venona project’s files were declassified, and the large extent of the KGB network inside the United States became widely known, it is not clear to which extent Judge Kenyon understood that she was being used as a tool of espionage.

Dorothy Kenyon first came to the attention of authorities in early 1950. At that time, it was discovered that she was a member of at least twenty-eight different communist front organizations. These were groups which had been identified, usually by the United States Attorney General or by legislative committees in one of the forty-eight states, as being substantially linked to the Soviet government.

Such organizations served several different purposes. The KGB - and its predecessor, the MGB - could found the group, working under the cover of one or more of its agents in the United States. To the public, these organizations appeared in various guises, never disclosing their links to Moscow.

These groups could then recruit members, some of whom were knowingly and deliberately seeking to harm the safety and security of United States citizens, and others of whom had perhaps no idea that they were being shaped into either intelligence gathering tools or policy-influencing tool of the Soviet Union.

Concerning Dorothy Kenyon, evidence is inconclusive, and will perhaps always be so. It is plausible and probable that she did not consciously enlist her services to weaken the security of the United States. She was more likely a well-intentioned, if naive and idealistic, individual who joined groups which claimed to favor some progressive cause.

How would these organizations have used Judge Kenyon? Most likely, she was not a major source of valuable information. Although well-connected in the government, her branch of the government was not a storehouse of military information, nor was it privy to private discussions of foreign policy.

She was, however, connected in a way which gave her the ability to informally influence policy. Not a source of intelligence, she was capable of nudging the thinking of policymakers and writers on policy topics. The Soviets could school her in ways which led her to favor policies which played into the hands of the Kremlin. These views she would then casually and unwittingly spread through her social circle, which included prominent leaders in government and in the media.

Given her role in government, away from military and foreign policy matters, and given her probable unawareness of the ways in which she was being used, it surprised many when her involvement in so many subversive organizations came to light. One historian, M. Stanton Evans, writes:

The case was that of Dorothy Kenyon, a former New York City judge and State Department appointee to a U.N. commission on the status of women. It seemed a curious selection. Judge Kenyon wasn’t a well-known or high-ranking official, and her connection to the State Department had recently concluded.

The organizations to which Judge Kenyon belonged were not merely interested in free speech and free debate about U.S. policy. These organizations had direct links to the Kremlin, to the KGB, to the MGB, or to other branches of Soviet military intelligence.

The surprise surrounding the revelations about Dorothy Kenyon support the hypothesis that she had not fully understood how she was being exploited. The Soviets valued her well-placed friends, and sought to influence the thinking of those friends through Kenyon’s social contacts. The Soviets would value the ability to steer an influential policymaker’s line of thought or the writing of a media personality.

Kenyon’s connections in the United Nations would also be valuable to the Soviets. Two historians, L. Brent Bozell and William F. Buckley Jr., write:

The name of Dorothy Kenyon was little known to the public - much less in association with Communist activities. Judge Kenyon was a reputable New York City lawyer, had once served as a municipal court judge, and had attracted some attention as a political activist, especially in the advancement of women's causes. She had been hired by the State Department in 1947 to serve as American delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

While there can be no doubt that Judge Kenyon served the Soviet cause, it may never be certain whether she did so knowingly, or whether she was exploited as an unwitting accomplice. In either case, however, her career path from municipal judge to State Department employee simultaneously made her more interesting to the Soviets, but also revealed a lack of discernment on the part of the State Department in creating, not only a security risk, but an actual security breach.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics

In 2013, The National Association of School Nurses, citing a 2005 study titled “The influence of parent education and family income on child achievement: The indirect role of parental expectations and the home environment” published in the Journal of Family Psychology, summarizes the findings of the study’s author, P.E. Davis-Kean, this way:

Children from single‐parent households have an increased risk for dropping out of school, becoming teen parents, and face barriers to success in the workforce. Although many children from single parent homes fare well, others face challenges in their educational, occupational, and social well‐being.

In 2012, according to the Obama administration’s Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 27% of children aged 0 to 17 years live in single-parent households.

The problems identified in 2012 were visible a decade or more earlier. As noted author Ann Coulter writes,

A 2004 New York Times Magazine article on welfare families by Jason DeParle said, "Mounds of social science, from the left and the right, leave little doubt that the children of single-parent families face heightened risks." Calling a single-parent family "a double dose of disadvantage," the Times article cited as "the definitive text" a book by sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur that concluded, back in 1994, "In our opinion, the evidence is quite clear: Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents' race or educational background."

Mounds of statistical evidence show that children raised in a single-parent home are more likely to abuse drugs, end up in jail, have lower educational achievement, have lower adult incomes, have poor health, and have nearly any other measurable demographic disadvantage.

The problem has been repeatedly quantified, by university researchers, and by agencies at the federal and state levels:

Controlling for socioeconomic status, race, and place of residence, the strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison is that he was raised by a single parent. By 1996, 70 percent of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. Seventy-two percent of juvenile murderers and 60 percent of rapists come from single-mother homes. Seventy percent of teenage births, dropouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents, and child murderers involve children raised by single mothers. Girls raised without fathers are more sexually promiscuous and more likely to end up divorced. A 1990 study by the Progressive Policy Institute showed that after controlling for single motherhood, the difference between black and white crime rates disappeared.

Questions about policy responses to this situation have also been raised many times. One obstacle to any policy action is that such action could have an unintended result of further reducing the nation’s already too-low birth rate. Far from a population explosion, like those seen in some third-world countries, the United States has a birth rate so low that if it drops further, serious economic repercussions would threaten.

But a still larger obstacle also blocks policy action regarding single parenthood: it is a societal phenomenon, not a governmental one, and so the most direct solutions are to be found among the organic institutions of society, not in legislation.

Governments are not free to change the laws of nature, including the law which says that even well-intentioned federal programs, perhaps especially well-intentioned ones, will yield a result in direct opposition to their stated purpose. Thus, any governmental program designed to strengthen families can only, and will inevitably, weaken them.

Society, if unimpeded by governmental regulation, is often capable of self-correction. Legislation, while well intended, is often ham-fisted and triggers unintended consequences - often, consequences which effect precisely those results which are opposite to the intended ones.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


The word ‘statism’ does not occur frequently in ordinary conversation, and even in political discussions it is not common. But this word identifies an idea which has a measurable impact on the world.

Various reference books will define ‘statism’ in different ways. Statism is the notion that whichever question or need or problem a citizen may have, the state has the answer, or the state is the answer.

Statism begins with sentiments about what the government can do for citizens, but gradually morphs into questions about what the citizen can do for the government. President Kennedy famously encouraged people to think about “what you can do for your country” - statism conceptually reverses that phrase into “what you can do for your government.”

In statist thinking, Lincoln’s “government for the people” meets it opposite: “people for the government.”

Because statism begins, however, by presenting itself as a benign or even beneficial effort to help people by means of government action, its true nature is not immediately seen. People of honest good will embrace social programs which are designed to help the poor.

But as the nature of the world works its inevitable way, sincere efforts to help society’s vulnerable members are exploited by cynical bureaucrats who understand that they can receive steady paychecks for administering social programs, whether or not those programs actually help anyone.

The Oxford English Dictionary offers this definition of statism:

The theory or system of social organization in which the State has substantial centralized control over a nation's social and economic affairs.

While an effort to offer social benefits is almost always part of the justification offered for giving ever more controlling power to state - which is the same as taking power away from the people - , the anticipated benefits are often replaced with outright harm to the very social classes which one hoped to help by means of some statist scheme.

The programs which were introduced as ways to help the poor reveal themselves to be programs which actually hurt the poor, and take freedom away from all social classes, rich or poor.

Taxation in any form is, in the final analysis, a reduction of individual civil liberty. Mark Levin, who served as chief of staff for the United States Attorney General, writes:

In the name of “economic justice” and “equality” the Statist creates the perception of class struggle through a variety of interventions, including the “progressive” income tax. In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx wrote, “In the most advanced countries the following will be pretty generally applicable: a heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”

Decisions about funding are observable and quantifiable. If the foundational purpose of a government is to protect the lives, freedoms, and property of its citizens, the defense programs would be seen as a priority. Instead, however, defense spending fell from 70% of federal outlays in the mid-1950s, to 46% at the height of the Vietnam War, to 28% during the so-called “Reagan Buildup,” to 19% during the “war on terror.”

Meanwhile, spending on programs which verifiably harm the poor - those would be programs which claim to help the poor - has increased. The language surrounding such programs has moved from unintentionally ironic to Orwellian doublespeak. A range of social programs have increased both urban and rural poverty.

Programs like food stamps, now part of EBT, have decreased nutrition for the poor and created “food deserts” in major urban areas. Medicare and Medicaid have decreased both the quality and the quantity of healthcare available to senior citizens and to low-income families, and has trimmed their ability to make independent decisions about their medical treatments.

The more the government funds programs to help the poor, the more the poor are harmed. This dynamic has a twofold root: good intentions gone wrong, in which a sincere desire to help the poor has been stymied by administrative incompetence, and cynical bureaucrats, who merely see a chance for a steady paycheck.

Scholar William Voegeli documents how funding is directed largely to programs which do not, and cannot, help their intended beneficiaries:

That amount has increased steadily, under Democrats and Republicans, during booms and recessions. Adjusted for inflation and population growth, federal welfare state spending was 58 percent larger in 1993 when Bill Clinton became president than it had been 16 years before when Jimmy Carter took the oath of office. By 2009, when Barack Obama was inaugurated, it was 59 percent larger than it had been in 1993. Overall, the outlays were more than two-and-a-half times as large in 2013 as they had been in 1977. The latest Census Bureau data, from 2011, regarding state and local programs for “social services and income maintenance,” show additional spending of $728 billion beyond the federal amount. Thus the total works out to some $3 trillion for all government welfare state expenditures in the U.S., or just under $10,000 per American. That figure does not include the cost, considerable but harder to reckon, of the policies meant to enhance welfare without the government first borrowing or taxing money and then spending it. I refer to laws and regulations that require some citizens to help others directly, such as minimum wages, maximum hours, and mandatory benefits for employees, or rent control for tenants.

Government-organized social programs are necessarily subject to inefficiencies, incompetence, and corruption. These characteristics plague any public-sector endeavor.

While the programs to help the poor are necessarily ineffective, statist tax schemes are quite effective at harming citizens. Mark Levin writes:

A recent study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that when measuring household taxes (income taxes and employee Social Security contributions), the United States “has the most progressive tax system and collects the largest share of taxes from the richest 10 percent of the population,” placing a heavier tax burden on high-income households than other industrialized nations do. The latest Congressional Budget Office figures show that the top 1 percent of income earners in the United States paid 39 percent of the federal income taxes while earning 18 percent of the pretax income and the top 5 percent of income earners paid 61 percent of federal income taxes while earning 31 percent of pretax income. Indeed, the top 40 percent of income earners paid 99.4 percent of federal income taxes. The bottom 40 percent of income earners paid no federal income tax and received 3.8 percent from the tax system. And the middle 20 percent of income earners pay only 4.4 percent of federal income taxes.

Citizens of good will see the fairness in paying taxes for the communal good. A reasonable voter

does not object to wealthier individuals paying more to finance the legitimate functions of government, the government has grown well beyond the limits placed on it by the Constitution, particularly since the New Deal. Redistributing wealth is a central objective of the progressive income tax.

But there is another purpose to graduated or progressive tax structures: to emphasize different levels of wealth among the citizens, and to pit them against each other in class struggle. Bureaucrats and elected politicians can, if they forego ethical considerations, profit from creating divisiveness among the citizens:

For the Statist, there must be a class struggle and it must be a never-ending struggle, for it is perhaps his most valuable weapon in his war against the individual, the free market, and ultimately the civil society. The Statist, therefore, not only opposes efforts to eliminate the progressive income tax, including such alternatives as the FAIR tax (a national sales tax) of the flat tax (a flat-rate income tax), he opposes most any income tax reductions that might weaken the “class structure.”

There is an alternative to the statist nightmare, in which the government takes wealth from citizens to fund programs which do not benefit those who most need help, and in which the government controls ever larger segments of private life which pitting groups of citizens against each other.

A more humane, and more effective, option is private-sector charity. Organizations across the United States operate effectively, without government funding, soup kitchens and homeless shelters, scholarships for needy students and daily care for low-income senior citizens.

Such private-sector charity routinely has much less corruption and inefficiency. Overhead is also lower, and in many cases, reduced to near-zero levels when individuals volunteer and donate their time and effort, as well as their money.

Private sector charities are not only a measurable and significant way to benefit the poor, but they can also preserve our civil liberties.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Good Intentions, Bad Results

Decisions about spending reveal actual priorities, whatever the alleged priorities may be. A man might talk about how much he values healthy food, but if the records show that he spends much of his money on donuts and bologna, his true preference has been shown.

The same is true of government spending. Political leaders may express deep concern for the poor, but if they allocate millions and billions of dollars in programs which actually make the condition of the economic underclasses worse, the true priorities of these bureaucrats make themselves manifest.

Programs which harm low-income citizens do so even if they are presented as strategies to help the poor.

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the United States has experienced a series of actions which were labeled with ambitious phrases like “War on Poverty” and “Great Society.” In reality, these programs not only failed to help the poor, but they measurably made the lot of the lower class worse.

The “food stamp” program has worsened the nutrition of both the urban and the rural poor, and created “food deserts” in major cities. Social Security and Medicare have worsened the economic status of elderly citizens, reduced their independence, and brought them under more government control.

The “war on drugs” has increased illegal drug smuggling, domestic production, sales, and consumption. The federal government’s attempts to raise the quality of education have merely worsened the standards of the nation’s schools.

Many people with sincerely good intentions worked to promote and enforce these programs. But sincerity, intentions, and compassion are not the same as observable and measurable results.

A program may have the best of intentions, but why continue to fund it if it produces the very opposite of its stated goals? Although people of genuine goodwill may have instituted the program, legions of cynical bureaucrats will receive comfortable paychecks from it. They have an interest in keeping such programs in place, even when the programs fail to help the intended beneficiaries - even when the programs harm the intended beneficiaries.

Thus it is that the machinations of bureaucrats keep funding flowing to institutionalized failure. Scholar William Voegeli writes:

America’s welfare state has been growing steadily for almost a century, and is now much bigger than it was at the start of the New Deal in 1932, or at the beginning of the Great Society in 1964. In 2013 the federal government spent $2.279 trillion — $7,200 per American, two-thirds of all federal outlays, and 14 percent of the Gross Domestic Product — on the five big program areas that make up our welfare state: 1. Social Security; 2. All other income support programs, such as disability insurance or unemployment compensation; 3. Medicare; 4. All other health programs, such as Medicaid; and 5. All programs for education, job training, and social services.

The clear trend in government is to fund those programs which both fail to help their intended recipients and which harm their intended recipients. The government has funded almost exclusively those anti-poverty programs which in fact increase poverty.

The other side of the coin is that programs which help citizens are prone to funding cuts. Given that the unambiguous purpose of a government is to protect the lives, freedoms, and properties of its citizens, it is at least counterintuitive that defense spending in the United States has been repeatedly cut. In the mid-1950s, defense spending was 15% of GDP. Since then, it has been chopped to 9.5% at the height of the Vietnam War, to 6.2% during the so-called “Reagan Buildup,” to less than 4% during the “war on terror.”

One need only to pose the rhetorical question whether the lives, freedoms, and property are more or less secure as a result.

A similar decline in security for the ordinary citizen has resulted from cuts to funding direct police presence. While total police funding has in some cases actually increased, posting of armed police to patrols in urban or suburban neighborhoods has in many cases decreased.

While it is true that violent crime, by some measures, has decreased in the last decade or two, it has increased in the last fifty years or so.

There is a sort of emotional satisfaction that a truly compassionate person feels when directing funding to a social program. But that satisfaction is an illusion if that program, despite its facade, fails to help people.

There is an unfortunate interplay between sincerely compassionate people and insincere bureaucrats. Good intentions can be exploited by public-sector careerists. People of genuine goodwill are exploited by governments.

A promising alternative is offered by private-sector charities. Meaningful and measurable help is offered by organizations like Ypsilanti’s Hope Clinic, which does not squander donated funds on overhead.

Rural and urban residents of all races and religions can receive significant and observable benefits from private sector charities which efficiently use the funds voluntarily donated by citizens.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lois Lerner's Long Train of Abuses and Usurpations

In 2013, Lois Lerner’s role in using the IRS as tool for political harassment became widely known in Congress, in the news media, and among the general public. Although Lois Lerner achieved her greatest fame, or infamy, in this matter, she had been involved in political machinations already for several decades. Matt Kibbe writes:

There is real evidence that Lois Lerner is a partisan with an ax to grind, and is willing to use her positions of power to advance her personal agenda. In 1996 she used her position as a Federal Elections Commission lawyer to go after Illinois U.S. Senate candidate Al Salvi, a Republican challenging Senator Dick Durbin. Late in the election, Salvi was hit by an FEC complaint filed by the Democratic National Committee, a charge that would dominate the headlines for the remainder of the campaign, which Salvi lost to Durbin. The charges were later dropped in court as frivolous, but not before Lois Lerner put Salvi through a bureaucratic and legal wood chipper.

Lerner’s abuse of power conforms to a predictable pattern. The Investor’s Business Daily reports that not only did Lerner again use a federal agency to intimidate a political opponent, but that her partner in crime was the same in 1996 as a decade later: Senator Dick Durbin. Durbin and Lerner designed a plot to keep opponents hamstrung by false accusations:

Before his 2010 letter urging the IRS to target conservatives, the Senate majority whip's 1996 campaign benefited from the targeting of his opponent by a Federal Election Commission official with a familiar name.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the IRS scandal may have its roots in Illinois politics with the 1996 targeting of Illinois conservative Al Salvi by a familiar name, Lois Lerner, then head of the Enforcement Division of the Federal Elections Commission.

Lerner has been able to subvert not only the IRS, but also the Federal Elections Commission, and - as described below - even FBI agents to serve her political ambition.

That year, Democrat U.S. Rep. Dick Durbin and Republican State Rep. Al Salvi were locked in a battle for the U.S. Senate seat Durbin would eventually win.

As the journal Illinois Review details, Salvi was confronted with an "October surprise," not one, but two, FEC complaints filed against him — one by Illinois Democrats about the way he reported a loan he made to himself, and another by the Democratic Senatorial Committee about a reported business donation.

What worked in an Illinois senatorial campaign also worked in a national presidential campaign.

The late inning complaints stalled Salvi's campaign against Durbin. "We couldn't get our message out because day after day, the media carried story after story about the FEC complaint," Salvi told Illinois Review.

This tactic of keeping political opponents busy was repeated by IRS Exempt Organizations Division chief Lerner on her targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Salvi refused to bargain and instead fought to clear his name in court. Although he lost the election, because the voters didn’t learn of Lerner’s and Durbin’s crimes until a court cleared Salvi after the balloting, Salvi has been acknowledged by the court as not guilty, while Judge Lindbergh determined that Lerner and Durbin had filed frivolous charges. By contrast, years later, when confronted with her crimes, Lerner did not seek to clear her name, but pled the Fifth Amendment. The Investor’s Business Daily explains:

Salvi recognized Lerner when she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before Rep. Darrell Issa's House Oversight Committee as the woman who made him an offer: "Promise me you will never run for office again, and we'll drop this case."

This was an offer he could and did refuse, running again in 1998 for Illinois state treasurer.

"That's the woman," Salvi said. "And I didn't plead the Fifth like she did."

In addition to harnessing the power of the IRS, the FBI, and FEC, Lerner managed also to use ATF agents and the OSHA bureaucracy in her extortion and intimidation efforts.

Nearly four years and $100,000 in legal fees later, federal Judge George Lindbergh dismissed the frivolous FEC case against Salvi for lending his campaign his own money, leaving FEC attorney Lerner, who was present and actively arguing before the judge, dismayed. "We never lose!" Lerner said, in a veiled threat to Salvi afterwards.

In an action reminiscent of the harassment of Tea Party activist Catherine Englebrecht, who was visited by an alphabet soup of federal agencies including the ATF, the IRS and OSHA after she sought tax exempt status for her group, Salvi received other special scrutiny.

The FBI was called in at one point to gather evidence on the case. According to Salvi, two FBI agents unexpectedly visited the Salvis' home, and interrogated his elderly mother about her $2,000 check to her son's campaign and where she got "that kind of money."

The case of Lois Lerner serves to demonstrate that federal power, housed in agencies formed with good intent and staffed by civil servants of good intent, can be a tool of blackmail and extortion if high-level appointees are so inclined.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Coal's Second Chance?

By the second half of the twentieth century, it had been established with reasonable certainty that high-sulfur coal had the potential, when burned, to damage the environment. Scientists hypothesized that this type of coal, also known as ‘lignite’ or brown coal, could be a contributing factor to “acid rain.”

Anthracite, a low-sulfur coal, was by that time recognized as environmentally friendly. Also known as hard coal, it is composed of nearly pure carbon and gives off few pollutants during combustion.

Between those two is a third type, bituminous coal. Known as ‘black coal,’ it contains detectably more sulfur than anthracite. For this reason, some lobbyists and activists wondered if it posed a threat to the environment.

Given the possibility of pollutants from bituminous coal, legislation was enacted to reduce, and in some cases nearly eliminate, its use. Industries hurried to find alternative energy sources. Nuclear power was seen as the future of electrical generation in the early 1970s, and while those plants were being built - a nuclear power plant takes several years to build - natural gas was burnt as a temporary measure to replace some of the coal. Jeanne Marie Laskas writes:

The federal Clean Air Act of 1970 and its amendments in 1977 and 1990 placed stringent controls on the sulfur dioxide emissions from burned coal. Acid rain was the thing. Power plants were forced to turn to more expensive but cleaner-burning natural gas, while the industry flirted with nuclear technology.

The United States had relatively few lignite reserves, and not much of it was mined or burned. The ban on such high-sulfur brown coal had little impact on industry, and seemed reasonable, at least as a temporary measure, until the matter could be further studied.

But bituminous coal was a major industry. It was, and is, a major source of electrical power. Millions of refrigerators, microwaves, computers, lights, iPods, phones, and other devices rely on black coal. Electricity prices increased significantly and suddenly as utility companies tried to quickly find other sources of power. Jeanne Marie Laskas records the impact of this shift in fuel, as thousands of people lost their jobs:

Coal? Suddenly, you could hardly give away the stuff they mined in the East, the medium-sulfur bituminous coal of the Pittsburgh Number 8 seam and similar-grade stuff of the 6A seam.

The media gave black coal a bad reputation and called it “dirty.” Activists had yet to demonstrate any clear link to alleged environmental damage. For the sake of possible connections between bituminous coal and pollution, lobbyists were willing to demand huge strip-mining operations in the western United States, which yielded a type of coal which the industry deemed inferior to bituminous:

That coal burned dirty. Power companies turned to the far less efficient but cleaner coal out west, where very large-scale strip mines became coal’s new cash crop. Mines throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia closed as the industry in Appalachia went into a free fall.

A full-fledged economic disaster threatened thousands of mining families in the eastern states, while all Americans faced rising electrical prices. Regulations were crippling the ability of one large industrial sector, and retarding the ability of several others - all because of an allegation of a hypothetical risk of environmental damage.

Happily, a total disaster was avoided: “The eastern mines started reopening in the late 1990s,” Laskas notes, writing in 2012:

The mines reopened because the power plants had figured out how to burn that gloriously efficient dirty coal and was the emissions, meeting EPA standards. They’re still reopening today, at a fierce rate, thanks to “clean-coal technology.”

Although the “scrubbers,” as the emissions-reducing devices are called, removed even the possibility of environmental harm, they did raise the cost of doing business, and so did not completely remove the burden from ordinary families who must pay for their electrical power needs.

Despite continued attacks from regulators, the coal industry experienced a partial renaissance.

Scientists are figuring out how to convert coal into liquid fuel to power cars and jets. The country is in a decidedly passionate mood to let go of its dependency on foreign oil.

Geologists continue to find new coal reserves, both anthracite and bituminous. Because alternative energy sources - like solar, wind, and geothermal - are still decades away from contributing a significant percentage to the nation’s electrical supply, coal, together with nuclear power, remains the most likely option for the future.

The opponents of the coal industry falls into two camps: first, the sincere environmentalists, who are concerned about the possibilities of environmental harm, no matter how remote or hypothetical; second, the cynical manipulators, who exploit environmentalism as a cover for their true motive, which is a desire to harm the U.S. economy and reduce the standard of living for the ordinary citizen.

The United States has, needs, and can benefit from its large coal reserves, and can do so without measurable harm to the environment. The only obstacle to coal, and to the health of a large segment of our industrial sector, is politics.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Obama: the New Nixon?

Scholars continue to find President Nixon to be a complex and intriguing figure. Possessing both keen insight into policy and an excess of personal ambition, Nixon alternated between brilliant political maneuvers and tragically self-defeated power-grabs.

When he discovered that his campaign staffers had broken into, and attempted to steal information from, an office in the Watergate building complex, his pride prevented him from simply turning them over to the police. Had he done so, he might have retained the presidency. But instead, like Shakespeare’s MacBeth, his ambition and pride led him down the path to destruction.

But the Watergate scandal was merely the occasion for further investigations into, and revelations of, improprieties in the Nixon administration. His use of the IRS to bully his enemies was troubling. The press labeled his administration “the imperial presidency” because of his overbearing and officious attitudes and expectations. Matt Kibbe writes:

In January 1973, Richard Nixon ended the military draft in the wake of a series of high-profile draft-card-burning protests by antiwar activists. (That’s right, a Republican ended the military draft. And it was Nixon.) His presidency would soon enough end ignominiously, though, in part due to his eagerness to use the IRS to selectively punish his political enemies. The Democrats, the Republicans, the left, and the press were all outraged by this remarkable abuse of executive power.

The parallels between Nixon and Obama are striking: the use of the IRS to harass political enemies; the “imperial” attitude; illegal monitoring of telephone conversations and other information intercepts for political, not policy, purposes; the staff’s functioning as a White House “under siege” administration; and a growing psychological distance leaving the president “out of touch.” Matt Kibbe continues:

The current IRS scandal, where the agency systematically targeted moms organizing their communities to defend constitutional principles like the freedom to associate and peaceably assemble, elicits no such outrage from Democrats or the many tentacles of leftist activist organizations. Few seem willing, or even interested in, defending everyone’s civil rights and the First Amendment protection of political speech those guys. How sad.

Obama may be spared Nixon’s fate, however, because the media are either inclined, or required by their employers and owners, to be less critical of Obama, and because the machineries of Congress have either been neutralized or are controlled by Obama’s partisans.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Senate Breaks Bad

Since the United States Congress held its first meeting in 1789, the bicameral legislative process has been adjusted and refined over the centuries. Many small changes, and a few large ones, have taken place, but perhaps none more impactful than the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.

Originally, the Constitution called for the legislatures of each state to elect two senators. The Constitution did not specify how the legislatures were to elect them, it merely said the senators were to be “chosen by the legislature” of each state. In practice, the state legislatures usually chose the senators by a simple majority in each of the legislature’s two houses.

The Seventeenth Amendment introduced the direct election of senators by the electorate of each state. Those in favor of the amendment indicated two reasons for their support of it: first, they felt that the original system created opportunities for corruption; second, there had been several cases of deadlocked state legislatures which sent, for a period of time, no senator to the national capital because they could not agree.

Those opposed to the amendment noted that opportunities for corruption would also be present after the adoption of the amendment, and that the deadlocked legislatures remained so for relatively brief periods of time, after which a duly appointed senator was properly sent to the Congress.

The amendment also reduced the stability of the original system, in which representatives were directly elected and senators chosen by the state legislatures. The original system balanced the more-quickly changing opinions of the voters with the more stable configurations of the legislative bodies, whose blocs remained steady between elections.

In favor of the amendment were William Jennings Bryan, who at the time was Secretary of State, and William Randolph Hearst, who owned and controlled majors newspapers across the United States. Hearst was able to manipulate media coverage of discussion about the amendment prior to its adoption; Hearst’s influence was a decisive factor in moving both individual states and Congress to approve the amendment.

Opposed to the amendment were Elihu Root, who had been both Secretary of State and a member of the U.S. Senate, and George Frisbie Hoar, a senator from Massachusetts who died before the amendment was approved.

The net effect of the amendment’s adoption was to make the election of senators into a sort of national referendum. While the smaller size of congressional districts ensured that the direct election of representatives to the U.S House of Representatives remained a matter of local concern, the state-wide nature of senatorial races effectively removed local concerns from those races, and attracted political attention and campaign resources from out of state.

Before the amendment, local concerns dominated the selection of senators. After the amendment, out-of-state factors influenced senatorial elections to the extent that truly local matters, the matters which senators are supposed to represent in Washington, were nudged aside by national questions.

Mathematically, if there are senatorial elections in one-third of the states in a given year, then two-thirds of the states - or more precisely the political groups in two-thirds of the states - are free to direct their resources to the campaigns going on in other states. Thus out-of-state influence on what is supposed to be a local election might be twice the domestic influence.

The U.S. Senate, in the wake of the Seventeenth Amendment, changed its tone. No longer representatives of their home states, the senators were now representatives of nationwide political movements. The Senate thereby became a sort of “club,” as Matt Kibbe notes:

The filibuster, a last-ditch attempt by a single member of the Senate to stall consideration of legislation, has a storied history in legislative warfare. Typically, this roadblock has been used to defend the status quo inside the cloistered walls of the most closed, insulated institution in America - the U.S. Senate. They don’t call it a club for nothing: It’s a privileged cadre unaccustomed to the bright light of public attention. And that’s the way they like it.

The impact of the Seventeenth Amendment, transforming the Senate into a club-like atmosphere, had implications for many pieces of legislation, e.g., for the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Backed by President Eisenhower, the bill intended to clearly restate the voting rights of Blacks, and articulated specific measures to ensure that those rights were fully available for Blacks. Eisenhower’s popularity gave the bill reasonably good prospects of passage.

A truly representative body - i.e., a body in which the legislators represented the interests and opinions of the state which sent them to Washington - would have quickly passed with bill without objection. That’s what happened in the House of Representatives. But the Senate, in its post-Seventeenth Amendment condition, was different: the senators did not feel themselves compelled to represent their home states. They were representing political parties and interest groups - they were representing the powers which had put them into office.

And so it was that there was significant Senate opposition to the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Matt Kibbe continues:

The most infamous use of the filibuster, of course, was by Democratic senator Strom Thurmond, then a segregationist who famously fought against the the efforts of Martin Luther King.

Senator Thurmond organized and energized the senators from his party. If they could not stop the bill entirely, they would at least attempt to remove its most effective provisions.

Thurmond would later argue that “King demeans his race and retards the advancement of his people.”

The “civil rights movement” was in motion and had gained momentum during the early 1950’s. Eisenhower, during WWII, had desegregated the army’s combat troops, and during his presidency worked to systematically implement that desegregation throughout the armed services.

The momentum of the civil rights movement was strong enough that only a legislative body which had ceased to be truly representative of its home states could afford to oppose it. The House of Representatives, more closely reflecting the electorate, was more supportive of the 1957 Civil Rights Act. As Matt Kibbe notes,

In 1954, the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education had ended “separate but equal” and started the process of integrating schools all over the country. A year after that, Rosa Parks famously refused to sit in the “blacks only” section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her bravery helped force racist government policies into the public psyche.

Contradicting the Supreme Court decision, contradicting public opinion, and contradicting the American voters, the Senate, now safely removed from public pressure, now clearly under the direction of lobbyists and political parties, was comfortable in its opposition to the civil rights bill.

On August 28, 1957, at 8:54 P.M., Thurmond took the Senate floor in opposition to major provisions of the 1957 Civil Rights Act. He would not stop until more than twenty-four hours later. He denied that any blacks were being denied a right to vote and argued that every state already had sufficient voter rights protections in their existing laws. “I think it is indicative that Negroes are voting in large numbers. Of course, they are not so well qualified to vote as are the white people.”

Initiating a filibuster under any circumstances requires audacity, but Thurmond, and his fellow senators from the Democrat Party, were not only starting a filibuster, but doing so in direct contradiction to a clear and growing public opinion - the voters of the nation were affirming the civil rights movement in increasing numbers, and the Supreme Court had voiced itself in the Brown decision.

African-American political freedoms had fallen from the highpoints they had reached between the late 1860’s and the 1890’s. After enduring the humiliation of having their voting rights violated for several decades, Blacks demanded a return of their political liberties, and the majority of United States voters sided with them. But safely insulated from the pressure of having to represent their alleged constituents, the senators blithely moved in the opposite direction. Matt Kibbe writes:

To this day, Thurmond’s remains the longest verbal filibuster in U.S. history. Ultimately, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 passed the Senate and was signed into law, but not before Thurmond and his Democratic colleagues had stripped the legislation of key provisions.

In a masterpiece of political deception and doublespeak, Thurmond, whose presence in the Senate was the result of a violation of states’ rights, claimed that he was acting in the name of states’ rights. The seventeenth amendment harmed the rights of states to freely choose their own senators; the senators now so chosen could safely ignore the states’ desires.

Had the states truly had their rights, the nature of the Senate would have had a different composition, a different self-conception, and a different set of operating habits. The presence of Thurmond and others like him was a direct result of a violation of states’ rights. Had states’ rights been observed, the opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957 would have been weaker. Matt Kibbe continues:

Segregationists like Thurmond had thoroughly corrupted the notion of “states’ rights” and the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution - vital and legitimate check on federal abuses of power - to obfuscate their real agenda. Thurmond and many others used the excuse of federalism to justify the oppression of individuals - unequal treatment under law - but that was never the intention of the federalist system. Yes, the states must not submit to federal tyranny, but that does not give them license to be tyrannical themselves. It was all about the rights of the individual.

The result was mixed: the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was passed by the Congress, and President Eisenhower signed it into law. But the act had been weakened, and some of the key provisions altered, by the Democrat Party’s filibuster. This was partly remedied when Eisenhower supported the Civil Rights Act of 1960, which was then passed by the Congress. But three years were wasted.

After Thurmond’s filibuster ended, and after Eisenhower signed the bill into law, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus denied the rights of Black students to attend a public high school in Little Rock. In a display of resoluteness, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to escort the African-American students into the high school.

In the wake of Thurmond’s filibuster, the Republican Eisenhower would not let another segregationist member of the Democrat Party, in this case Orval Faubus, stand in the way of equal civil rights. As Matt Kibbe writes,

Free people should judge others based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. If you believe in liberty and the dignity of the individual, you inherently believe in treating everyone equally under the laws of the land. This is a first principle. It’s nonnegotiable. Defending the rights of the individual, including equal treatment under the law, is a fundamental responsibility of a constitutionally limited government, as James Madison had so eloquently argued in Federalist 51.

Thus, in a long and complex narrative, the Seventeenth Amendment was passed by a progressivist movement, headed by a racist president, Woodrow Wilson, who, as head of the Democrat Party, imposed racial segregation into the offices of the federal government which had been racially integrated since the Reconstruction era. That same amendment, and its effect on the culture of the U.S. Senate, would be used half a century later as Strom Thurmond organized his fellow Democrat Party senators to oppose civil rights.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Downgrading the U.S. Federal Government's Creditworthiness

In 2011, major financial agencies reduced the rating of bonds and other forms of debt issued by the United States federal government. Simply put, the USA isn't as good a risk as it used to be.

This doesn't mean that the nation is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Yet. But it does mean that by standards as objective as any can be, we've not done a good job of managing our budget.

Naturally, efforts were made to hold someone responsible for this. Who to blame? The Democrats and Republicans blame each other; the liberals and conservative blame each other; the Congress and the President blame each other. Perhaps the most realistic, and least political, location in which to lodge blame is in the past, about forty years earlier.

President Lyndon Johnson, under his slogan of a "Great Society," orchestrated a mathematical impossibility, a sort of generational Ponzi scheme stretching over decades. One financial engine motivating the eventual downgrade of the nation's credit is the Medicare Plan. Kevin Williamson writes:

The blame for Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. sovereign credit belongs almost exclusively to the president, the most socialistic American chief executive in living memory, but also to key congressional Republicans, who got carried away by their emotions. The president is Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the congressional Republicans are the 70 members of the House and 13 senators who, led by Rep. John W. Byrnes (R., Wis.), voted to create Medicare, a welfare handout disguised as an insurance program and structured as a Ponzi scheme. The handiwork of these illustrious gentlemen has taken some time to catch up with us, but catch up it has.

One definition of 'Ponzi scheme' in a common dictionary tells of "the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors." LBJ's Medicare setup was never financially viable; but it took forty years to reach critical mass. Exacerbating factors included other Great Society programs like Medicaid.

Medicare cannot go out of business, no matter how boneheaded its financial decisions. Because enrollment in Medicare is automatic rather than voluntary, because it is funded mainly out of payroll taxes, and because its premiums are mostly symbolic, Medicare encourages beneficiaries to make maximum use of it, which drives up both overall healthcare expenses and the deficit. We have managed to cut ourselves with both sides of that double-edged sword.

Hence the downgrading of the USA's credit. Medicare is an example of what some economic textbooks call a perverse incentive. Selling insurance for far less than its market value encourages consumers to buy it and use it - and those most likely to see the benefit to themselves in the arrangement are those least likely to need it: educated consumers, used to calculating comparative advantages, tend to come not from the lowest income classes. Kevin Williamson explains that while a number of various Great Society programs pose dangers to the nation's credit rating, Medicare is by far the most dangerous, precisely because it appeals to those savvy consumers who need it least:

And it’s really Medicare. Medicaid is a clear and present fiscal danger, but it will be relatively easy to fix, because it is easier to take benefits away from poor people than to take them away from well-off people, and the oldsters who collect Medicare are one of the most affluent and therefore politically powerful demographic groups in the country, age and wealth going together in our society more or less.

Medicare is also an example of a regressive tax. The poor are likely to put more money into it, while getting less out of it. Life expectancy alone would insure this regressiveness, but education does as well. Well-educated people tend to live longer and accumulate greater net worths.

It is worth keeping in mind that, as a National Bureau of Economic Research report found, “Medicare has led to net transfers from the poor to the wealthy, as a result of relatively regressive financing mechanisms and the higher expenditures and longer survival times of wealthier beneficiaries. Even with recent financing reforms, net transfers to the wealthy are likely to continue for at least several more decades.”

When the USA's credit rating was lowered in 2011, it was the fault of neither President Obama nor President Bush. It was a long time coming, and it was due to President Johnson.

Inconveniencing the Stalinists: the Smith Act

The Smith Act, a bit of legislation passed by the Congress in 1940, made explicit the notion implicit in any form of government: that those who advocate the violent overthrow of the government are afoul of the law. In a free society, which the United States attempts to be, there is a constant tension between freedom of speech and the security of the citizens.

On the one hand, criticism of the government, and even proposals to replace the government with a different one, are within the realm of a civil liberty, while the advocation of violent overthrow is a premeditation bent on harming individuals and therefore punishable by law. But where, exactly, is the boundary line between the two?

A number of famous trials involved the Smith Act, and some of them reached the Supreme Court. A few of them involved leaders of the Communist Party (CP), which was operating in the United States as both an intelligence-gathering network for the Soviets, and as a network for those who were prepared to sabotage the U.S. government. This latter, active, aspect of the CP's presence in the USA ranged from influencing policy decisions in the federal government, so that decisions were made against the nation's best interests, to developing and preparing saboteurs who were prepared for acts of violence against persons and objects - prepared to shoot people and dynamite buildings. Ronald Radosh writes:

the post-war Smith Act trial that took place in 1949, when the Justice Department brought to the docket the top leaders of the American CP, and indicted them for conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government by force. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In Dennis v. U.S., the Court, led by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, ruled in a 6–2 decision that the convictions were legal and that the Smith Act under which the defendants were indicted was constitutional. The Court’s majority decision stated that the government had a right to prohibit the intention to commit acts meant to overthrow the American republic, and to prosecute the plotters before they acted.

In reaction to the verdict in Dennis vs. U.S., those who supported the communists claimed that First Amendment rights were violated; that the defendants were being prosecuted for what they had merely said. The legal task here is to find the boundary between speaking about an act and preparing to commit an act. If a man speaks, in an abstract way, about changing governments, about the need for a new government, and even about the possibility of doing so by means of violence, then his speech, however unpleasant, may still be protected by the First Amendment. But when he begins to stockpile bombs and guns, when he makes specific and concrete plans about whom he will shoot and which buildings he will explode, when he is receiving instructions and materials from of hostile foreign government, and when he trains and organizes others to do so, he will at some point move out of the realm of those things which are protected by the First Amendment.

Over the past two decades, since the release of the so-called Venona decrypts of Soviet intelligence operations in the U.S. and the more recent Vassiliev KGB files, as well as documents found in Moscow by Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, much evidence has been assembled that proves beyond any doubt that the American Communist party was not just another political party, but an institution whose policies, leadership, and programs were forged in Moscow, and that served as a recruiting ground for Soviet intelligence, with the participation and cooperation of the American party’s top leaders.

Despite the claims of the communists and their supporters, evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they were under the supervision of Soviet intelligence agencies like the KGB. It must be remembered that in the late 1940s and 1950s, the USSR was actively preparing for war, anticipating a major conflict when it attempted to overrun those parts of Europe which it had not already dominated. The USSR was also preparing to trigger an overthrow of the United States government from within, by means of the Communist Party of the United States of American (CPUSA) - the official and alternative title for the American Communist Party.

the American Communist party was an organ of Joseph Stalin and a ready fifth column in the event that war broke out between the U.S. and the USSR.

Elizabeth Bentley was a spy for the Soviets from 1938 until 1945, when she defected from the communists and revealed what she knew to the FBI. She provided one of the biggest breaks in terms of uncovering Soviet espionage activity on American soil.

Soviet spying was not a figment of the imagination, and that the Smith Act indictments took place concurrently with the revelations by Elizabeth Bentley concerning the spy networks she handled in the United States.

One of the espionage networks with whom Elizabeth Bentley worked, and about whom she revealed data to the FBI, was the Silvermaster network, which carried out a number of operations for the NKGB (a predecessor of the KGB). One such operation was the theft of currency printing plates, which allowed the Soviet government to counterfeit currency, thereby simultaneously destabilizing the economy of the western allies and siphoning wealth from the United States to the Soviet Union.

Not only did members of the American Communist party have direct contacts with the NKGB, the KGB, and other Soviet espionage agencies, but some of them had been taken to Russia to be trained. Ronald Radosh explains that

a labor historian named Albert V. Lannon wrote a post on a historians’ Internet discussion group. Lannon is the son of Al Lannon, later a Smith Act defendant in the second New York Communist trial in 1951, who was the CP’s head of Communist waterfront dock workers in New York City. Lannon wrote that, at the time of his father’s trial, his father told him that while he was in Moscow at the Lenin school for party cadres, he was instructed that if war broke out between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, he was to organize party cadres in the factories and get those at the Celanese plant in Cumberland, Md., to engage in sabotage.

Some branches of the communist network in the United States were more violent than others; some directly planned to use physical violence, others kept it as an option to be used if needed.

one defendant, Gil Green, acknowledged that he had, in a speech, urged the use of violence to attain the party’s goal of achieving Communism in America. Green, he writes, “admitted that he had at times advocated violence — though only ... if, ‘heaven forbid, America becomes the victim of a fascist dictatorship and change became impossible by orderly, majority, and, above all, democratic means.’”

The insiders in the American Communist party were so thoroughly indoctrinated that they saw little difference between Adolf Hitler and Harry Truman. They saw the U.S. government as utterly unjust and as needing replacement. Holding such opinions, as bizarre as they might be, was within their First Amendment rights; planning sabotage was not.

hard as it is to comprehend, in 1949 the CPUSA believed that the U.S. was most of the way to fascism already, and that Pres. Harry S. Truman was the leader of the Wall Street warmongers who desired war with the USSR and the head of an essentially fascist government. Thus Green’s own words reveal that the prosecution was indeed correct in its assertion that the Communists were advocating force and violence, necessary because they lived in a fascist America.

In the minds of the CPUSA members, if Harry Truman were the moral equivalent of Benito Mussolini, and if the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s were as fascist as Hitler's Nazi-controlled Germany, then a violent overthrow of the government was not only justified, it was a duty. To be sure, the United States wasn't then, and isn't now, perfect; but these moral equations seem at least odd, and perhaps even surreal. It is important to understand, however, that these equations were integrally woven into the worldview of the inner circle of the CPUSA members, which explains their readiness to use violence. Undeniably, there were also CPUSA members on the fringe of the organization who had not fully internalized the demonization of the United States and who were not contemplating the use of force in a political overthrow.

There is a historical irony in the tension between the fact that, on the one hand, the 1950s saw advanced in civil rights for African-Americans and a rise in the number of women obtaining college educations, while on the other hand the CPUSA saw the United States as a fascist country. Even as the USA was moving in the direction of still greater freedom, the CPUSA members were convinced that it was repressive, and to compound the irony, the CPUSA wanted to replace the U.S. government with a Soviet-style dictatorship, the alleged cure for the alleged repression!

The powerful hold which this worldview had on the minds of CPUSA members is seen in their behavior after they were convicted. Having been found guilty under the Smith Act, and awaiting verdicts, Ronald Radosh reports their continued preparations for a violent communist revolution on American soil:

After the guilty verdict came in, a few of the convicted defendants fled while on bail, and hid out for years. One of them was World War II hero Robert Thompson, who had received the Distinguished Service Cross. He came to the home of another underground party cadre, Carl Ross, asking to be put up in a safe house. He told Ross it was important that he, Thompson, stay free because he was both a senior CP leader and had military experience in both World War II and the Spanish Civil War, and he would be needed to lead U.S. Communist guerrillas against the American fascist regime, or during World War III should war break out between the U.S. and Russia.

Prosecutions under the Smith Act identified a list individuals who were undoubtedly Soviet agents. The lives and safety of ordinary citizens in the United States were in an amount of danger which seemed unlikely at the time. As the nation worked to return to a sense of normal life after WWII, the everyday concerns of living were about sending returning soldiers to colleges, an upsurge in the house construction market, and the Baby Boom as millions of young couples got married and began families. Few of them were thinking that the Soviets were so close to destroying their way of life.

So when key FBI informants — including ex-Communist Louis Budenz and Herbert Philbrick, an FBI infiltrator into the party — testified that, in the event of domestic repression, they would have become underground saboteurs, they were telling the truth.

The CPUSA was, then, a direct extension of Stalin's KGB and of other Soviet intelligence agencies, and carefully prepared to unleash a wave of sabotage and assassinations on U.S. soil. This is the unpleasant reality behind the image of daily life in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Foreign Policy: Monroe, Roosevelt, Truman, Kerry, Obama

The famous Monroe Doctrine was not the first statement on U.S. foreign policy, but it remains one of the most famous. Nearly two hundred years later, President James Monroe's text is indisputably significant, but perhaps sometimes misunderstood. His words, in fact, are a notable step in the process of ending colonizing and ending the imperialistic drive. In a speech to Congress in 1823, he discussed negotiations taking place with Russia about the status of Alaska, and said:

the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

While the main message of the text is usually interpreted as U.S. opposition to European empire-building efforts, there is more to the text than this one point. Commenting on a revolution in Spain which produced a brief respite from absolutist rule between 1820 and 1823, and on the subsequent resumption of absolutism in Spain, Monroe adds:

It was stated at the commencement of the last session that a great effort was then making in Spain and Portugal to improve the condition of the people of those countries, and that it appeared to be conducted with extraordinary moderation. It need scarcely be remarked that the result has been so far very different from what was then anticipated. Of events in that quarter of the globe, with which we have so much intercourse and from which we derive our origin, we have always been anxious and interested spectators.

The citizens of the United States cherish sentiments the most friendly in favor of the liberty and happiness of their fellow men on that side of the Atlantic. In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy so to do.

Sorting through the garbled syntax of the speech, Monroe seems to be saying that while many Americans were privately disappointed at the resumption of absolutist rule in Hapsburg Spain, the United States would not intervene in European matters. A war between European states, or a civil war inside a European state, would not be an occasion for U.S. military action. This is a clear and noteworthy statement by a U.S. president. Monroe goes on to specify the conditions under which the United States would mobilize its military:

It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers.

The political system of the allied powers is essentially different in this respect from that of America. This difference proceeds from that which exists in their respective Governments; and to the defense of our own, which has been achieved by the loss of so much blood and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most enlightened citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity, this whole nation is devoted.

We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere, but with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

In the war between those new Governments and Spain we declared our neutrality at the time of their recognition, and to this we have adhered, and shall continue to adhere, provided no change shall occur which, in the judgment of the competent authorities of this Government, shall make a corresponding change on the part of the United States indispensable to their security.

Having established then, that the United States would not interfere in a conflict between two European powers, but that it would intervene in a conflict between a European power and an American nation, Monroe explains the apparent asymmetry - why would he justify military intervention in the one case, but not the other?

The different responses which the United States would be intelligible, Monroe argues, because the European situation is remote, while the other American nations are close to, in some cases even bordering, the United States. The extent to which the other European powers chose to intervene in the situation in Spain in the early 1820s, he adds, is a matter for the private judgment of the respective nations.

The late events in Spain and Portugal shew that Europe is still unsettled. Of this important fact no stronger proof can be adduced than that the allied powers should have thought it proper, on any principle satisfactory to themselves, to have interposed by force in the internal concerns of Spain. To what extent such interposition may be carried, on the same principle, is a question in which all independent powers whose governments differ from theirs are interested, even those most remote, and surely none more so than the United States.

Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting in all instances the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none.

The neutrality, despite private sentiments, which the United States was able to demonstrate regarding Spain will not be demonstrated regarding nations in the western hemisphere. Any European aggression toward a nation in the two American continents will be seen not only as a threat to U.S. security, but also as a violation of the principle of self-determination, a violation of Locke's vision of a government obtaining its legitimacy from the consent of the governed, a violation of the vision of a republic with freely-elected representatives, and a violation of the principle of majority rule.

But in regard to those continents circumstances are eminently and conspicuously different. It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent without endangering our peace and happiness; nor can anyone believe that our southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is equally impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition in any form with indifference. If we look to the comparative strength and resources of Spain and those new Governments, and their distance from each other, it must be obvious that she can never subdue them. It is still the true policy of the United States to leave the parties to themselves, in the hope that other powers will pursue the same course.

Thus the Monroe Doctrine not only states that the U.S. will defend other western hemisphere nations against imperialistic encroachments, but it also states that the United States will remain out of conflicts inside Europe, and it gives a justification for the distinction.

For nearly a century, this guiding principle was solidly a part of American foreign policy. That would change with the Progressive Era, as historians sometimes label the early part of the twentieth century. Speaking to Congress in 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt, a representative of such Progressivism, articulated a change in the Monroe Doctrine:

It is not true that the United States feels any land hunger or entertains any projects as regards the other nations of the Western Hemisphere save such as are for their welfare. All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power. If every country washed by the Caribbean Sea would show the progress in stable and just civilization which with the aid of the Platt Amendment Cuba has shown since our troops left the island, and which so many of the republics in both Americas are constantly and brilliantly showing, all question of interference by this Nation with their affairs would be at an end. Our interests and those of our southern neighbors are in reality identical. They have great natural riches, and if within their borders the reign of law and justice obtains, prosperity is sure to come to them. While they thus obey the primary laws of civilized society they may rest assured that they will be treated by us in a spirit of cordial and helpful sympathy. We would interfere with them only in the last resort, and then only if it became evident that their inability or unwillingness to do justice at home and abroad had violated the rights of the United States or had invited foreign aggression to the detriment of the entire body of American nations. It is a mere truism to say that every nation, whether in America or anywhere else, which desires to maintain its freedom, its independence, must ultimately realize that the right of such independence can not be separated from the responsibility of making good use of it.

Roosevelt's policy innovation is, of course, famously known as the Roosevelt Corollary, although it is not, strictly speaking, a corollary. Roosevelt's stance is his own creation. A corollary is a proposition which is logically entailed by another proposition; a proposition which follows necessarily from another, already proven, proposition. Roosevelt went beyond anything implied or entailed by Monroe.

It would be President Woodrow Wilson who would explore the full possibilities in Roosevelt's brainchild. Both Roosevelt and Wilson belong to the progressivist movement, despite the fact that they were members of different political parties. The progressivists rejected the anti-imperialism put forth by William Jennings Bryan, Andrew Carnegie, and William James. This anti-imperialism appeared in the late 1890's and early 1900's, partially in the context of the aftermath of the Spanish-American War.

By contrast, the progressivists like Wilson and Roosevelt embraced an activist and internationalist foreign policy. Roosevelt argued that some situations "require intervention by some civilized nation." That nation might be the United States, and his adjective 'civilized' manifests an air of imperialistic superiority. The United States might have to be "an international police power," and, bluntly, the USA's "interference" might be both necessary and justified.

Although Roosevelt made some minor actions in central America which demonstrated his policy, Woodrow Wilson understood the far greater implications. Just as the original Monroe Doctrine shaped not only America's actions in the western hemisphere, but also America's actions elsewhere, so also, Wilson saw, Roosevelt's corollary not only opened the door for an activist policy in central America, but also an international activist intervention elsewhere in the world.

In calling for war in 1917, Wilson combined the rhetoric his audience expected to hear, the rhetoric he knew was necessary to get approval for his declaration of war, and hints at his progressivist foreign policy agenda:

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Clearly, Wilson had no hesitation in assuming the role of 'international policeman' for the other countries in the world. What precisely he meant by 'liberty' and 'freedom' must be understood in light of his willingness to impose significant restrictions on free speech and his willingness to impose various planned economies and social engineering experiments on the citizens of the United States.

Wilson's embrace of Roosevelt's corollary led to U.S. involvement in WWI, to Wilson's nation-building efforts vis-a-vis Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, and to Wilson's idealistic formation of the League of Nations.

Progressivist foreign policy led to the deaths of millions in WWI, and set up the deaths of millions more in WWII.

If the U.S. exceeded its proper role, if it disrespected the sovereignty of Latin American nations, if it intervened beyond propriety - then it is because of Wilson's stretching of Roosevelt's corollary to its outer limits.

After the bitter experiences of two worlds wars, a failed effort at isolationism between them, and the start of the Cold War after them, President Harry Truman worked to define a new direction for U.S. foreign policy. The progressivism of Woodrow Wilson was a failure. In March 1947, as overt and covert Soviet efforts threatened Greece and Turkey, Truman enunciated his policy:

One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the war with Germany and Japan. Our victory was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way of life, upon other nations.

To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States has taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations. The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members. We shall not realize our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed upon free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.

The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. The Government of the United States has made frequent protests against coercion and intimidation, in violation of the Yalta agreement, in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria. I must also state that in a number of other countries there have been similar developments.

At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one.

One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.

The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio, fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.

I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.

I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.

The Truman Doctrine, as it came to be known, can perhaps be seen as a moderation of progressivist foreign policy. While going beyond the Monroe Doctrine in allowing U.S. involvement overseas, it curbed the imperialism and adventurism of Wilson's willingness to consider U.S. involvement nearly anywhere for nearly any reason.

Truman's criteria for intervention seem to be narrower than Wilson's. Truman works to give some definition to his concept of freedom, creating at least some notion of the test for whether or not intervention is appropriate in any given concrete situation. By contrast, Wilson seemed willing to intervene overseas motivated either by the domestic political opportunities created by foreign wars, or by the desire to impose a progressivist internationalist framework on the nations of the world, or by a sheer desire for adventurism.

Specifically, Truman argued that the U.S. should respond against aggression, whereas Wilson did not restrict himself in this way, i.e., Wilson would be willing to consider intervention even in the absence of aggression. The complex political dynamics which led to the start of WWI forestall any simplistic analysis in which one nation is cast as an aggressor and the other as victim. The Cold War, on the other hand, was a clear case of ambition on the part of the USSR over against smaller nations of eastern Europe.

Unlike Wilson's enthusiastic romp into WWI, motivated at least in part by his notion that a foreign war would give him prerogatives in implementing his domestic policies, Truman's 1947 announcement of his doctrine was directly motivated by geopolitical realities. As Charles Krauthammer writes:

In March 1947, with Greece in danger of collapse from a Soviet-backed insurgency and Turkey under direct Russian pressure, President Truman went to Congress for major and immediate economic and military aid to both countries.

More than sixty years later, Secretary of State John Kerry would attempt to adjust U.S. foreign policy again, with a statement about the Monroe doctrine. In November 2013, he said:

When people speak of the Western Hemisphere, they often talk about transformations that have taken place, but the truth is one of the biggest transformations has happened right here in the United States of America. In the early days of our republic, the United States made a choice about its relationship with Latin America. President James Monroe, who was also a former Secretary of State, declared that the United States would unilaterally, and as a matter of fact, act as the protector of the region. The doctrine that bears his name asserted our authority to step in and oppose the influence of European powers in Latin America. And throughout our nation’s history, successive presidents have reinforced that doctrine and made a similar choice. Today, however, we have made a different choice. The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.

Careful analysis shows that Kerry cannot have meant what he said, and that he cannot have said what he meant. A latecomer to the Obama administration, Kerry is inheriting a policy which might be described, not as ending the Monroe Doctrine, but rather going even farther in the same direction as the Monroe Doctrine. The Obama administration has worked to change the status of the Falkland Islands. Under the original understanding of the Monroe Doctrine, the United States was content to allow England to retain the Falklands, because the islands did not represent an imperialistic expansion on the part of Britain, but rather were already long-held and long-established British holdings by the time President Monroe issued his statement. The Monroe Doctrine was designed to keep European powers from barging into the New World and claiming territory as colonies. The Monroe Doctrine is content to allow nations from outside the western hemisphere to retain their already established holdings. Monroe was interesting in prevented new acquisitions, not in confiscating old ones.

The Obama administration, however, is attempting to transfer ownership of the Falklands from the English to the Argentinians. Although most of the administration's actions on this topic occurred before Kerry became Secretary of State, Kerry is still carrying the flag of the administration. The administration not only retains the Monroe Doctrine, but goes much further and embraces the much more interventionist and activist Roosevelt corollary. Kerry continued his statement:

The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states. It’s about all of our countries viewing one another as equals, sharing responsibilities, cooperating on security issues, and adhering not to doctrine, but to the decisions that we make as partners to advance the values and the interests that we share.

A clearer insight into the Kerry/Obama foreign policy can be gained to ascending to a broader global level. The Monroe Doctrine, the Roosevelt Corollary, and the Truman Doctrine are neither sincerely embraced nor sincerely rejected by Obama; instead, they are used or ignored depending on the policy needs of a higher order.

At the macro level, one of Obama's foreign policy goals is to weaken the USA's relations with its allies: recall the incident in which he rejected the bust of Winston Churchill. Another goal is to weaken those allies themselves: hence the desire to pry the Falklands from England. A final goal is to weaken the United States: in part by means of the first two goals, in part by relinquishing power and failing to project an image of power, and in part by a self-abasing rhetoric.

In the service of these goals, which are the core of Obama's global vision, the historic foreign policy doctrines of the United States are mere tools, to be used, reinterpreted, misinterpreted, or discarded in the service of dismantling a reliable diplomatic structure. While Obama and Kerry may have some acquaintance with the Monroe Doctrine, neither cares about it.