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Paul Revere's Other Riders

PAUL REVERE’S OTHER RIDERS

 

The Myth:

“Alerted by signal lanterns, express riders Paul Revere and William Dawes eluded British patrols and spurred their horses toward Lexington along separate routes to warn Hancock and Adams.” – Created Equal: A History of the United States, a 2009 college textbook[1]

“When Revere and fellow patriot William Dawes saw two lights shine, they set off on horseback. Using two different routes out of Boston, they sounded the alert.” – Holt McDougal United State History, a 2012 middle school textbook

 

The Truth:

Neither Paul Revere nor William Dawes received news of the Regulars’ advance by signal lanterns. In his classic “Paul Revere’s Ride,” published in 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow exercised considerable poetic license with his legendary “One if by land, two if by sea” drama. Revere, “impatient to mount and ride,” pats his horse, gazes across the landscape, and stamps the earth, fretfully passing the time for sixteen lines until he ?nally spots two lanterns in the steeple of Old North Church. Twenty years ago David Hackett Fischer laid this tale to rest, but the take-away from Fischer’s meticulous deconstruction of the legend, in popular accounts and several modern textbooks, is merely that Revere did not ride alone: Dawes rode as well, they say, and some even mention Samuel Prescott. A lone rider has turned into two or three, but this dodges the issue. The Revere story is much broader, and stronger, than Longfellow’s tale or its modern modification.

 

Longfellow’s poem distorts the historical record on four counts. The first three, for history buffs, will be old news, but the fourth goes deeper, to the very heart of how we tell historical tales.

 

Longfellow’s Revere worked both ends of the signal lantern ploy, which accounted for more than half the poem. Before crossing the Charles River, Revere told a “friend” how to work the signal; then, after arriving on the opposite shore, Revere supposedly waited to receive it. We do not know who actually received the signal on the opposite shore, but we do know it was not Paul Revere. After being dispatched by Joseph Warren, but before crossing the river, Revere arranged for two lanterns to be lit—so that someone else might see them in Charlestown and set off to warn other patriots. Someone else? Facts had to be altered to accommodate Longfellow’s yarn. There could be no other rider in “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

To achieve maximum effect, Longfellow had Revere visit “every Middlesex village and farm.” Although some allowance can be made for hyperbole, Longfellow certainly knew that his protagonist never reached Concord, the shiretown (county seat) of Middlesex County, the destination of the British troops, and the “Middlesex village” most in need of warning. The real Revere tried and failed to get that far.

 

In 130 lines, Longfellow said not a word about Revere’s detention by British officers, which, in Revere’s own contemporaneous rendition, was the main event. That would have revealed a British presence in the vicinity of Lexington and Concord, so what need then for a messenger? For the story to work, all soldiers had to be stationed to the rear of Revere and his horse. “The Redcoats are coming” loses its dramatic effect if we know that some Redcoats have already arrived.

 

If Longfellow’s poem had remained just a children’s story, such historical inaccuracies could be overlooked. But when fiction morphed into fact, the story of a lone rider waking up sleepy-eyed farmers turned history on its head and altered the very meaning of “revolution.” Except for two bit players—his horse and the friend who lit the lanterns—Longfellow’s Revere acted on his own, but in fact there were many others, and these people, like Revere, were true revolutionaries. David Hackett Fischer’s reconstruction of the event includes a very full cast of characters:

  •         A stable boy, a hostler, and at least two other Bostonians who sent word to Revere that British soldiers were readying for an offensive.
  •         Someone within General Gage’s closest circle (possibly his own wife, Margaret Kemble Gage) who informed Dr. Joseph Warren of the offensive.
  •         Dr. Warren, who, on behalf of the Boston Committee, asked Revere to deliver a warning to Samuel Adams and John Hancock.
  •         William Dawes, who carried the same message by a different route, also at the request of Joseph Warren.
  •         Three different “friends” who engineered the clandestine lighting of the signal lanterns: John Pulling, Robert Newman, and Thomas Bernard.
  •         Two boatmen who rowed Revere across the Charles River.
  •         Colonel Conant and other patriots from Charlestown, who waited patiently to receive the lantern signal they had arranged with Revere two days earlier.
  •         An unidenti?ed messenger who was dispatched from Charlestown as soon as the signal from the lanterns was received. (Since we have no indication that this messenger ever reached either Lexington or Concord, the entire signal lantern subplot is never consummated.)
  •         Richard Devens of Charlestown, who greeted Revere by the river’s shore and warned him that British officers were patrolling the road to Lexington and Concord.
  •         Devens, Abraham Watson, Elbridge Gerry, Charles Lee, and Azor Orne, members of the Provincial Committee of Safety, who had already sent a note to Hancock in Lexington, warning him that British officers were headed his way.
  •         An anonymous courier who successfully delivered this message at about 8:00 in the evening, three hours before Revere would mount his horse.
  •         The innkeeper at the Black Horse Tavern in Menotomy (now Arlington), who later that night warned Gerry, Lee, and Orne that British troops had arrived, enabling them to escape out the back door.
  •         Solomon Brown of Lexington, who warned William Munroe, a sergeant in the town militia, that British officers were headed toward Lexington, and who later tried to alert the people of Concord to the presence of the officers, but was soon captured.
  •         Munroe and eight other militiamen, who stood guard through the night at the house of Jonas Clarke, the Lexington minister, where Adams and Hancock were staying.
  •         Thirty other Lexington militiamen, who gathered at Buckman’s Tavern to deal with the crisis at 9:00 PM, two hours prior to Revere’s departure on his famous ride.
  •         Elijah Sanderson and Jonathan Loring of the Lexington militia, who volunteered to keep a watch on the British officers.
  •         Josiah Nelson, a farmer who resided on the road to Concord, who had his head slashed by the sword of one of the British officers, then alerted all his neighbors.
  •         John Larkin of Charlestown, who lent Revere a horse that belonged to his father, Samuel.
  •         Another unidenti?ed messenger from Charlestown who set off at the same time as Revere, heading north. This rider reached Tewksbury, twenty-?ve miles from Boston, at about the time Revere himself was taken captive by the British officers.
  •         Captain John Trull of Tewksbury, who, upon receiving news from the Charlestown rider, ?red three shots from his bedroom window—a signal that lacked the ?nesse of the lanterns in Old North Church but that had a greater impact. The militia commander in Dracut, on the New Hampshire boundary, heard the shots and mustered his militia—several hours before the bloody dawn at Lexington.
  •         Samuel Tufts of East Cambridge, who embarked on a ride of his own after his neighbor, Elizabeth Rand, told him she had spotted the British column.
  •         Solomon Bowman, lieutenant of the Menotomy militia, who immediately mustered his town’s company after viewing the British soldiers.
  •         Isaac Hull, captain of the Medford militia, who received word from Revere, then mustered his company.
  •         Dr. Martin Herrick, who left Medford to alarm Stoneham, Reading, and Lynn. These towns, in turn, sent out their own riders; by dawn, the entire North Shore of Massachusetts Bay was aroused and in the process of mustering.
  •         Another messenger from Medford, who headed east to Malden, and from there to Chelsea.
  •         Yet another messenger from Medford, who journeyed to Woburn, and still another from Woburn to the parish above it, now Burlington, and so on, ad in?nitum, until almost every “Middlesex village and farm” had been warned by a vast network of messengers and signals—all in the wee hours of the morning on April 19, 1775.
  •         Finally, Samuel Prescott, a doctor from Concord, who managed to get the message to the people of his hometown that hundreds of British troops were coming their way to seize their military stores. Although Revere, Dawes, and Prescott had all been captured on the road between Lexington and Concord, Prescott alone staged a successful escape and completed the mission.

 

Paul Revere was not so alone after all, and Dawes and Prescott were not his only fellow messengers. When the main British column approached Lexington, bells and signal shots echoed from front and rear. The entire countryside was aroused and ready. This wasn’t the work of one man but of an intricate web of patriotic activists who had been communicating with each other for months. Ever since the overthrow of British authority late in the summer of 1774, they had prepared for military confrontation. Anticipating just such an event as the British assault on Lexington and Concord, they had rehearsed their response. Each man within each town knew whom to contact and where to go once the time came—and now the time had come. The true story of the “Lexington alarm” is deeper and richer than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with his emphasis on individual heroics, led us to imagine.

 

William Deverell and Deborah Gray White, Holt McDougal United State History: Beginnings to 1877 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), 114. Another middle school text passes on the legend while technically avoiding  a falsehood: “As the troops set out, a signal sent by the Patriots appeared in the steeple of Boston’s Old North Church. Two men, Paul Revere and William Dawes, then rode through the night to warn the minutemen.” Students reading this passage will of course assume that the two sentences are causally linked and that Revere and Dawes, having seen the signals, set off on their mission­. James West Davidson and Michael B. Stoff, America: History of Our Nation (Prentice Hall, 2014),

 

Three days after British Regulars marched on Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress authorized the collection of ?rsthand reports from those who were participants or observers.Paul Revere came forward to tell what he knew.In his account, Revere devoted only one short sentence to his now-mythic ride. Additions were to come later. Nowhere in his statement did Revere mention the lantern signals from the Old North Church, a seemingly trivial detail. Instead, he featured a harrowing experience that Longfellow saw ?t to overlook. After giving his message to Adams and Hancock, Revere and two others set out toward Concord to warn the people there—but he did not get very far before being captured by British officers. For most of his deposition, Revere talked of this capture, of how the officers had threatened to kill him ?ve times, three times promising to “blow your brains out.” Though he had carried messages from town to town many times before, Revere had never encountered such serious danger.(Edmund S. Morgan, ed., Paul Revere’s Three Accounts of His Famous Ride (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1961).

 

This will be the topic and discussion for the week. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Wentworth Cheswell, the Black Man Who Rode With Revere

Wentworth Cheswell, the Black Man Who Rode With Revere

 

Wentworth Cheswell is considered New Hampshire’s first archaeologist and the first African-American elected to public office in the United States. He also rode north when Paul Revere rode west to warn colonists that the redcoats were coming.

He was born on April 11, 1746, to a biracial father, Hopestill Cheswell (sometimes spelled Cheswill), and Katherine Keniston, who was white. Hopestill was the son of a white woman and an enslaved black man, Richard Cheswell. Under the laws of the day, Hopestill’s status followed his mother, so he was free.

Eventually Hopestill’s father bought his freedom. and in 1717 purchased 20 acres of land in Newmarket, N.H. Richard’s land purchase is considered the first by an African-American in New Hampshire

Hopestill, a housewright and carpenter, built the John Paul Jones House in Portsmouth, N.H., as well as the Samuel Langdon House (now in Sturbridge Village) and the Bell Tavern (since burned in the Portsmouth fire of 1867).

 

WENTWORTH CHESWELL, TOWN LEADER

 

Hopestill earned enough money to send Wentworth to Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, Mass. Wentworth took advantage of his unusual educational privilege and worked as a schoolmaster in Newmarket. By the time he reached 21 he owned more than 30 acres and a pew in the meetinghouse.

At 21 he married 17-year-old Mary Davis of Durham, N.H. They had 13 children. Their descendants identified as white, and the census listed Cheswell as white. Records of comments by his contemporaries suggest they viewed him as biracial.

In 1768, 22-year-old Wentworth Cheswell won election as town constable. George Mason University determined that made him the first African-American elected to public office. Cheswell beat out Vermont’s Alexander Twilight for the honor. For all but one year of his life, Cheswell held public office including town selectman, assessor, scrivener, justice of the peace and auditor.

 

RIDING WITH REVERE

 

He also won election as town messenger for the Committee of Safety, which meant he had to carry news to and from Exeter, N.H. On Dec. 13, 1774, he and Paul Revere rode in different directions to warn Portsmouth citizens of the approach of two British warships. The British intended to retake gunpowder and weapons stolen by the colonists from Fort William and Mary.

When the American Revolution broke out, Wentworth Cheswell enlisted in Col. John Langdon’s Company of Light Horse Volunteers and fought at the Battle of Saratoga. When he finished his military service he returned to Newmarket, where he ran a store next to his schoolhouse. He also did fieldwork and wrote reports on the town’s artifacts. For that he earned the distinction as New Hampshire’s first archaeologist.

Cheswell and other men also founded the Newmarket Social Library, to which he bequeathed his books.

Wentworth Cheswell died at age 70 of typhus on March 8, 1817. He and his descendants were buried on his farm.

 

This will be the topic and discussion for the week. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Crispus Attucks, the Boston Massacre Hero

Crispus Attucks, the Boston Massacre Hero

 

The first person to die in the Boston Massacre was an African American sailor named Crispus Attucks. Not much is known about Crispus Attucks prior to his death in 1770, but his actions that day became a source of inspiration for both White and Black Americans for years to come.

 

Attucks Enslaved

Attucks was born around 1723; his father was an African man enslaved in Boston, and his mother was a Natick Indian. His life up until he was 27 years old is a mystery, but in 1750 Deacon William Brown of Framingham, Massachusetts, placed a notice in the Boston Gazette that a man he enslaved, Attucks, had run away. Brown offered a reward of 10 pounds as well as reimbursement for any incurred expenses to anyone who caught Attucks.

 

The Boston Massacre

No one captured Attucks, and by 1770 he was working as a sailor on a whaling ship. On March 5, he was having lunch near Boston Common along with other sailors from his ship, waiting for good weather so they could set sail. When he heard a commotion outside, Attucks went to investigate, discovering a crowd of Americans clustered near the British garrison.

 

The crowd had gathered after a barber's apprentice accused a British soldier of not paying for a haircut. The soldier struck the boy in anger, and a number of Bostonians, seeing the incident, gathered and shouted at the soldier. Other British soldiers joined their comrade, and they stood as the crowd grew larger.

 

Attucks joined the crowd. He took leadership of the group, and they followed him to the customs house. There, the American colonists began throwing snowballs at the soldiers guarding the customs house.

The accounts of what happened next differ. A witness for the defense testified at the trials of Captain Thomas Preston and eight other British soldiers that Attucks picked up a stick and swung it at the captain and then a second soldier.

 

The defense laid the blame for the actions of the crowd at Attucks' feet, painting him as a troublemaker who incited the mob. This may have been an early form of race-baiting as other witnesses refuted this version of events.

 

However much they were provoked, the British soldiers opened fire on the crowd that had gathered, killing Attucks first and then four others. At the trial of Preston and other soldiers, witnesses differed on whether Preston had given the order to fire or whether a lone soldier had discharged his gun, prompting his fellow soldiers to open fire.

 

The Legacy of Attucks

Attucks became a hero to the colonials during the American Revolution; they saw him as gallantly standing up to abusive British soldiers. And it is entirely possible that Attucks decided to join the crowd to take a stand against perceived British tyranny. As a sailor in the 1760s, he would have been aware of the British practice of impressing (or forcing) American colonial sailors into the service of the British navy. This practice, among others, exacerbated tensions between v and the British.

 

Attucks also became a hero to African Americans. In the mid-19th century, African American Bostonians celebrated "Crispus Attucks Day" every year on March 5. They created the holiday to remind Americans of Attucks' sacrifice after Black people in America were declared non-citizens in the (1857) Supreme Court decision. In 1888, the city of Boston erected a memorial to Attucks in Boston Common. Attucks was seen as someone who had martyred himself for American independence, even as he himself had been born into the oppressive system of enslavement.

 

This will be the topic and discussion for the week. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Rich VS Wealthy: Key Differences Between The Two (Part 2 of 2)

The difference between being rich and wealthy 

 

There is a bit more to being rich vs wealthy than how much money you have in your bank account. In fact, it’s possible for someone who makes less than a rich person to actually be wealthier than the rich person with the fancy car and latest fashion designs. 

That’s because rich people spend a lot of money, but wealthy people save and invest most of their money. Wealthy people might have a lot of money, but they don’t spend it all in one go. And they certainly don’t use debt unless it’s for a very clear purpose, such as an investment on a house. 

Instead, a wealthy person saves as much money as possible and invests it in assets. That might mean buying real estate or investing in the stock market. Regardless of how they invest, wealthy people know that in order to grow their wealth, they need to turn their cash into assets. 

 

How to become wealthy 

 

If you want to become wealthy, there are a few things you can do to get started. Don’t just focus on how big your paycheck is. You also want to avoid schemes that sell you ideas to get rich quickly. Instead, follow these steps to eliminate debt and have the right mindset when it comes to amassing wealth. 

 

Save 10-15% of your paycheck every month 

 

The first step to becoming wealthy is to save a portion of your paycheck every month, no matter how much or how little you make. Always set aside at least 10% to 15% every month.

You can set up your bank account so that a portion of your paycheck is deposited directly into your savings. This is an easy way to save without even needing to think about it. If you struggle with saving, try a savings challenge, or look at your budget and find out where you can eliminate expenses. 

 

Pay off debt, starting with high-interest debt

 

If you want to be wealthy, you need to be debt-free. Focus on paying off your debt, starting with high-interest loans such as credit card debt.

Find out if it makes sense to refinance your student loans or mortgage for a better interest rate. You can also look into things like student debt forgiveness. 

Make becoming debt-free your number one priority! 

 

Invest as soon and as much as you can 

 

One of the quickest ways to grow your wealth is to invest it. Of course, investing comes with its own risks, but there are plenty of options available. You can use an automated service like a robo-advisor, get investment advice from a broker, or invest in things other than the stock market, like physical assets. 

No matter what you do, do something! You can even put your money in a high-yield savings account to accrue interest until you’re ready to invest it. Make your money work for you. 

 

Don't splurge on unnecessary expenses  

 

The key to growing wealth is being frugal and living within your means. In fact, you should live far below your means so that you can invest your extra income and savings.

That means resisting the urge to buy those designer jeans or buying the latest iPhone model when an older model will work just as well. Be smart about what you spend your money on and only buy the things that you not only need, but that will also last in value. 

 

Think about your long-term financial goals and assets 

 

Growing wealth is a long-term commitment. It’s not something that happens overnight. It could take you years to build up your wealth and that’s okay. When things get tough, remember your long-term goals and why you chose to try to become wealthy in the first place. 

 

Wealth is a mindset 

 

Being wealthy doesn't start with a huge wallet full of cash. Wealth starts with the right mindset. Save a portion of your income, focus on becoming debt-free, and invest early and often. 

If you want to be wealthy, you need to always think about your long-term goals. Do you want to retire early? Own a few houses? Travel? When thinking about wealth, don't just focus on your income, but focus on building up your investments and assets to last you a few lifetimes.

 

This will be the topic and discussion in a two part series, this is two of two. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Rich VS Wealthy: Key Differences Between The Two (Part 1 of 2)

Rich VS Wealthy: Key Differences Between The Two

 

When we think of someone being rich vs wealthy, we might think it’s the same thing but it’s not. For some reason, the words rich and wealthy are often incorrectly used to describe the same thing.

The two words might seem like synonyms, but they are completely different. It’s hard to spot the difference, but being rich and being wealthy is not the same thing. 

What does it mean to be rich? 

Being rich is simply having a lot of money or income. It comes down to how much cash you have in your bank account. But just because you’re rich, doesn’t mean you are wealthy.

In fact, being rich can often mean that you are spending a lot of money. It can also mean that you have a lot of debt. It doesn’t matter how much money you have if your expenses are higher than your income. Being in debt is definitely not something to aspire to! 

People who are rich might drive a fancy car or live in an amazing house in the best part of town, but it comes at a cost. If you make $200,000 a year, but spend $225,000 a year in expenses, you might seem rich, but you’re on your way to going broke. 

As a matter of fact, plenty of celebrities have gone broke because of their rich lifestyles. 

MC Hammer at one point had $30 million in the bank, a $1 million house with 200 staff members, and a horse stable with 19 racehorses. But all those expenses took a toll and all that spending (along with a number of lawsuits), resulted in Hammer declaring bankruptcy in 1996. He ended up in $13 million in debt.  

What does it mean to be wealthy? 

Being wealthy is not only having enough money to meet your needs but being able to afford not to work if you don’t have to. It’s about amassing assets and making your money work for you. In other words, it’s having a significant net worth

Wealthy people don’t necessarily own the latest gadgets or cars or throw lavish parties. What they do have, is a lot of assets, such as real estate, investments, and cash. For example, if your monthly expenses are $5,000 per month, and you have $30,000 in savings, then you have about six months worth of wealth.  If you invest that $30,000 and you end up with $5,000 a month in investment revenue, you are wealthy.

The most wealthy people in America are often business owners. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is worth $145 billion, while Warren Buffet is worth $80.8 billion. Buffet is considered a frugal billionaire. Despite his massive wealth, he still lives in the Nebraska home he bought in 1958 for $31,500. And while he bought a vacation beach house in California for $150,000 in 1971, he ended up selling it for $7.5 million

 

This will be the topic and discussion in a two part series, this is one of two. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Why Do Bitcoins Have Value? Part 4

Bitcoin Challenges

 

Generally, Bitcoin holds up fairly well in the above categories when compared against fiat currencies. So what are the challenges facing Bitcoin as a currency?

 

One of the biggest issues is Bitcoin's status as a store of value. Bitcoin's utility as a store of value is dependent on its utility as a medium of exchange. We base this in turn on the assumption that for something to be used as a store of value it needs to have some intrinsic value, and if Bitcoin does not achieve success as a medium of exchange, it will have no practical utility and thus no intrinsic value and won't be appealing as a store of value.

 

Like fiat currencies, Bitcoin is not backed by any physical commodity or precious metal. Throughout much of its history, the current value of Bitcoin has been driven primarily by speculative interest. Bitcoin has exhibited characteristics of a bubble with drastic price run-ups and a craze of media attention. This is likely to decline as Bitcoin continues to see greater mainstream adoption, but the future is uncertain.

 

Bitcoin's utility and transferability are challenged by difficulties surrounding the cryptocurrency storage and exchange spaces. In recent years, digital currency exchanges have been plagued by hacks, thefts, and fraud.

 

Of course, thefts also occur in the fiat currency world as well. In those cases, however, regulation is much more settled, providing somewhat more straightforward means of redress. Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies more broadly are still viewed as more of a "Wild West" setting when it comes to regulation.

 

Different governments view Bitcoin in dramatically different ways, and the repercussions for Bitcoin's adoption as a global currency are significant.??

 

Bitcoin Worth vs. Rival Fiat Currencies

In order to place a value on Bitcoin, we need to project what market penetration it will achieve in each sphere. This article will not make a case for what the market penetration will be, but for the sake of the evaluation, we'll pick a rather arbitrary value of 15%, both for bitcoin as a currency and bitcoin as a store of value. You are encouraged to form your own opinion for this projection and adjust the valuation accordingly.

 

The simplest way to approach the model would be to look at the current worldwide value of all mediums of exchange and of all stores of value comparable to bitcoin, and then calculate the value of bitcoin's projected percentage. The predominant medium of exchange is government backed money, and for our model, we will focus solely on them.

 

Roughly speaking, M1 (which includes M0) is currently worth about 4.9 trillion U.S. dollars, which will serve as our current worldwide value of mediums of exchange.

 

M3 (which includes all the other buckets) minus M1 is worth about 45 trillion U.S. dollars. We will include this as a store of value that is comparable to bitcoin. To this, we will also add an estimate for the worldwide value of gold held as a store of value. While some may use jewelry as a store of value, for our model, we will only consider gold bullion. 

 

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that at the end of 1999, there were about 122,000 metric tons of available above-ground gold. Of this, 48%, or 58,560 metric tons, was in the form of private and official bullion stocks. At an estimated current price of $1,200 per troy ounce, that amount of gold is today worth upwards of 2.1 trillion U.S. dollars. 

 

Since there has in recent years been a deficit in the supply of silver and governments have been selling significant amounts of their silver bullion, we reason that most silver is being used in industry and not as a store of value, and will not include silver in our model. Neither will we treat other precious metals or gemstones. In aggregate, our estimate for the global value of stores of value comparable to bitcoin, including savings accounts, small and large time deposits, money market funds, and gold bullion, come to 47.1 trillion U.S. dollars.

 

Our total estimate for the global value of mediums of exchange and stores of value thus comes to 52.1 trillion U.S. dollars. If Bitcoin were to achieve 15% of this valuation, its market capitalization in today's money would be 10.8 trillion U.S. dollars. With all 21 million bitcoin in circulation, that would put the price of 1 Bitcoin at $514,000.

 

Difficulties of Valuing Bitcoin

This is a rather simple long term model. Perhaps the biggest question it hinges on is exactly how much adoption will Bitcoin achieve? Coming up with a value for the current price of Bitcoin would involve pricing in the risk of low adoption or failure of Bitcoin as a currency, which could include being displaced by one or more other digital currencies.

 

Models often consider the velocity of money, frequently arguing that since Bitcoin can support transfers that take less than an hour, the velocity of money in the future Bitcoin ecosystem will be higher than the current average velocity of money. Another view on this though would be that velocity of money is not restricted by today's payment rails in any significant way and that its main determinant is the need or willingness of people to transact. Therefore, the projected velocity of money could be treated as roughly equal to its current value.

 

Another angle at modeling the price of Bitcoin, and perhaps a useful one for the near-to-medium term, would be to look at specific industries or markets one thinks it could impact or disrupt and think about how much of that market could end up using Bitcoin. The World Bitcoin Network provides a nifty tool for doing just that.

 

This will be the topic of four of four in a four part series. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Why Do Bitcoins Have Value? Part 3

Bitcoin Compared Against Fiat Currencies

 

1. Scarcity

When Bitcoin was launched in 2009, its developer(s) stipulated in the protocol that the supply of tokens would be capped at 21 million.

 

To give some context, the current supply of bitcoin is around 18 million, the rate at which Bitcoin is released decreases by half roughly every four years, and the supply should get past 19 million in the year 2022.?? This assumes that the protocol will not be changed.

 

Changing the protocol would require the concurrence of a majority of the computing power engaged in Bitcoin mining, meaning that it is unlikely.

 

The approach to supply that Bitcoin has adopted is different from most fiat currencies. The global fiat money supply is often thought of as broken into different buckets, M0, M1, M2, and M3. M0 refers to currency in circulation. M1 is M0 plus demand deposits like checking accounts. M2 is M1 plus savings accounts and small time deposits (known as certificates of deposit in the United States). M3 is M2 plus large time deposits and money market funds. 

 

Since M0 and M1 are readily accessible for use in commerce, we will consider these two buckets as mediums of exchange, whereas M2 and M3 will be considered as money being used as a store of value. As part of their monetary policy, most governments maintain some flexible control over the supply of currency in circulation, making adjustments depending upon economic factors. This is not the case with Bitcoin.

 

So far, the continued availability of more tokens to be generated has encouraged a robust mining community, though this is liable to change significantly as the limit of 21 million coins is approached. What exactly will happen at that time is difficult to say; an analogy would be to imagine the U.S. government suddenly ceased to produce any new bills. Fortunately, the last Bitcoin is not scheduled to be mined until around the year 2140. Generally, scarcity can drive value higher. This can be seen with precious metals like gold.

 

2. Divisibility

Notably, 21 million bitcoins are vastly smaller than the circulation of most fiat currencies in the world. Fortunately, Bitcoin is divisible up to 8 decimal points. The smallest unit, equal to 0.00000001 Bitcoin, is called a "Satoshi" after the pseudonymous developer behind the cryptocurrency. This allows for quadrillions of individual units of Satoshis to be distributed throughout a global economy.

 

One bitcoin has a much larger degree of divisibility than the U.S. dollar as well as most other fiat currencies. While the U.S. dollar can be divided into cents, or 1/100 of 1 USD, one "Satoshi" is just 1/100,000,000 of 1 BTC. It is this extreme divisibility that makes bitcoin's scarcity possible; if bitcoin continues to gain in price over time, users with tiny fractions of a single bitcoin can still take part in everyday transactions. Without any divisibility, a price of, say, $1,000,000 for 1 BTC would prevent the currency being used for most transactions.

 

3. Utility

One of the biggest selling points of Bitcoin has been its use of blockchain technology. Blockchain is a distributed ledger system that is decentralized and trustless, meaning that no parties participating in the Bitcoin market need to establish trust in one another in order for the system to work properly. This is possible thanks to an elaborate system of checks and verifications which is central to the maintenance of the ledger and to the mining of new Bitcoins. Best of all, the flexibility of blockchain technology means that it has utility outside of the cryptocurrency space as well.

 

4. Transportability

Thanks to cryptocurrency exchanges, wallets, and other tools, Bitcoin is transferable between parties within minutes, regardless of the size of the transaction with very low costs. The process of transferring money in the current system can take days at a time and have fees. Transferability is a hugely important aspect of any currency. While it takes vast amounts of electricity to mine Bitcoin, maintain the blockchain, and process digital transactions, individuals do not typically hold any physical representation of Bitcoin in the process.

 

5. Durability

Durability is a major issue for fiat currencies in their physical form. A dollar bill, while sturdy, can still be torn, burned, or otherwise rendered unusable. Digital forms of payment are not susceptible to these physical harms in the same way.

 

For this reason, bitcoin is tremendously valuable. It cannot be destroyed in the same way that a dollar bill could be. That's not to say, however, that bitcoin cannot be lost. If a user loses his or her cryptographic key, the bitcoins in the corresponding wallet may be effectively unusable on a permanent basis.?? However, the bitcoin itself will not be destroyed and will continue to exist in records on the blockchain.

 

6. Counterfeitability

Thanks to the complicated, decentralized blockchain ledger system, bitcoin is incredibly difficult to counterfeit. Doing so would essentially require confusing all participants in the Bitcoin network, no small feat. The only way that one would be able to create a counterfeit bitcoin would be by executing what is known as a double-spend. This refers to a situation in which a user "spends" or transfers the same bitcoin in two or more separate settings, effectively creating a duplicate record. While this is not a problem with a fiat currency note—it is impossible to spend the same dollar bill in two or more separate transactions—it is theoretically possible with digital currencies.

 

What makes a double-spend unlikely, though, is the size of the Bitcoin network. A so-called 51% attack, in which a group of miners theoretically control more than half of all network power, would be necessary. By controlling a majority of all network power, this group could dominate the remainder of the network to falsify records. However, such an attack on Bitcoin would require an overwhelming amount of effort, money, and computing power, thereby rendering the possibility extremely unlikely.

 

This will be the topic of three of four in a four part series. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Why Do Bitcoins Have Value? Part 2

Scarcity, Divisibility, Utility, and Transferability

 

Aside from the question of whether it is a store of value, a successful currency must also meet qualifications related to scarcity, divisibility, utility, transportability, durability, and counterfeitability. Let's look at these qualities one at a time.

 

1. Scarcity

The key to the maintenance of a currency's value is its supply. A money supply that is too large could cause prices of goods to spike, resulting in economic collapse. A money supply that is too small can also cause economic problems. Monetarism is the macroeconomic concept which aims to address the role of the money supply in the health and growth (or lack thereof) in an economy.

 

In the case of fiat currencies, most governments around the world continue to print money as a means of controlling scarcity. Many governments operate with a preset amount of inflation which serves to drive the value of the fiat currency down. In the U.S., for instance, this rate has historically hovered around 2%.4?? This is different from bitcoin, which has a flexible issuance rate that changes over time.5??

 

2. Divisibility

Successful currencies are divisible into smaller incremental units. In order for a single currency system to function as a medium of exchange across all types of goods and values within an economy, it must have the flexibility associated with this divisibility. The currency must be sufficiently divisible so as to accurately reflect the value of every good or service available throughout the economy.

 

El Salvador made Bitcoin legal tender on June 9, 2021.6 It is the first country to do so. The cryptocurrency can be used for any transaction where the business can accept it. The U.S. dollar continues to be El Salvador’s primary currency.

3. Utility

A currency must-have utility in order to be effective. Individuals must be able to reliably trade units of the currency for goods and services. This is a primary reason why currencies developed in the first place: so that participants in a market could avoid having to barter directly for goods. Utility also requires that currencies be easily moved from one location to another. Burdensome precious metals and commodities don't easily meet this stipulation.

 

4. Transportability

Currencies must be easily transferred between participants in an economy in order to be useful. In fiat currency terms, this means that units of currency must be transferable within a particular country's economy as well as between nations via exchange.

 

5. Durability

To be effective, a currency must be at least reasonably durable. Coins or notes made out of materials that can easily be mutilated, damaged, or destroyed, or which degrade over time to the point of being unusable, are not sufficient.

 

6. Counterfeitability

Just as a currency must be durable, it must also be difficult to counterfeit in order to remain effective. If not, malicious parties could easily disrupt the currency system by flooding it with fake bills, thereby negatively impacting the currency's value.

 

To assess Bitcoin's value as a currency, we'll compare it against fiat currencies in each of the above categories.

 

This will be the topic of two of four in a four part series. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Why Do Bitcoins Have Value? Part 1

Why Do Bitcoins Have Value?

 

Bitcoin offers an efficient means of transferring money over the internet and is controlled by a decentralized network with a transparent set of rules, thus presenting an alternative to central bank-controlled fiat money.1 There has been a lot of talk about how to price Bitcoin, and we set out here to explore what the cryptocurrency's price might look like in the event it achieves further widespread adoption. First, however, it is useful to back up a step. Bitcoin and other digital currencies have been touted as alternatives to fiat money. But what gives any type of currency value?

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Currencies have value because they can be used as a store of value and a unit of exchange.
  • Successful currencies have six key attributes—scarcity, divisibility, utility, transportability, durability, and counterfeitability.
  • The cryptocurrency bitcoin has value because it holds up very well when it comes to these six characteristics, although its biggest issue is its status as a unit of exchange as most businesses have yet to accept it as payment.
  • Bitcoin's utility and transferability are challenged by difficulties surrounding the cryptocurrency storage and exchange spaces.
  • However, if bitcoin gains scale and captures 15% of the global currency market (assuming all 21 million bitcoins in circulation) the total price per bitcoin would be roughly $514,000.

 

Why Currencies Have Value

Currency is usable if it is a store of value, or, put differently, if it can reliably be counted on to maintain its relative value over time and without depreciating. In many societies throughout history, commodities or precious metals were used as methods of payment because they were seen as having a relatively stable value.

Rather than require individuals to carry around cumbersome quantities of cocoa beans, gold, or other early forms of currency, however, societies eventually turned to minted currency as an alternative. Still, the reason many examples of minted currency were usable was because they were reliable stores of value, having been made out of metals with long shelf lives and little risk of depreciation.

In the modern age, minted currencies often take the form of paper money which does not have the same intrinsic value as coins made from precious metals. Perhaps even more likely, though, individuals utilize electronic currency and payment methods. Some types of currencies rely on the fact that they are "representative," meaning that each coin or note can be directly exchanged for a specified amount of a commodity.

However, as countries left the gold standard in an effort to curb concerns about runs on federal gold supplies, many global currencies are now classified as fiat. Fiat currency is issued by a government and not backed by any commodity, but rather by the faith that individuals and governments have that parties will accept that currency.

Today, most major global currencies are fiat. Many governments and societies have found that fiat currency is the most durable and least likely to be susceptible to deterioration or loss of value over time.

 

This will be the topic in a four part series. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

U.S. VETERANS SERVE AT HOME BY COMBATING FOOD DESERTS

U.S. VETERANS SERVE AT HOME BY COMBATING FOOD DESERTS 

 

The shuttering of three area Walmart stores forced residents in a 44 square mile swath of southwest Wichita, Kansas to live in a food desert. However through the partnership and support of the CDFI Fund, Enterprise Community Loan Fund and veteran- owned business Honor Capital, low-income families again have access to healthy food options and locally-driven economic opportunity. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) generally considers a food desert to be an area of low-income (at least 20 percent of residents living in poverty) and low-access to supermarkets or grocery stores (more than a mile in urban areas and more than 10 miles in rural areas). Due to a lack of healthy food options, those living in food deserts are disproportionately afflicted by nutrition-related illnesses, including diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Launched in 2014 by a group of U.S. Naval Academy graduates, Honor Capital’s mission is the eradication of food deserts in underserved rural areas and job creation for veterans. Building on experience opening three previous Save-A-Lot Stores, Honor Capital partnered with Enterprise to open its fourth store in this Wichita community. Tapping into CDFI Fund Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) funding, Enterprise provided Honor Capital with a loan to fund construction of the store. 

Opened on January 4, 2017, this store has expanded access to healthy food options for nearly 1,500 low-income families and seniors and created 12 new permanent jobs in a community with an unemployment rate of over five percent. 

“We are investing in Honor Capital because we share the same vision and see their great potential. Our investment will provide the capacity they need to continue to expand healthy food access in underserved communities and to create jobs,” says Enterprise Community Loan Fund President Lori Chatman. “We were able to partner with Honor Capital thanks to our HFFI award, and 

we expect the social return of our investment to grow as this veteran-owned business continues to defeat food deserts.”  

 

This will be the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The TOP 10 Medical Advances in History

The top 10 medical advances in history

 

Throughout history, disease has been a subject of fear and fascination in equal measure. However, each revolutionary medical discovery has brought us a crucial step closer to understanding the complex mysteries of disease and medicine. As a result, we have been able to develop medicines and treatments that have been instrumental in saving millions of lives. 

Here’s a chronological list of the top medical advances in history so far:

Vaccines (1796)

It is difficult to pinpoint when vaccines became an accepted practice, mostly because the journey to discovery was long and complicated. Beginning with an attempt by Edward Jenner in 1796 to use inoculations to tame the infamous smallpox virus, the usefulness and popularity of vaccines grew very quickly. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, various vaccinations were created to combat some of the world’s deadliest diseases, including smallpox, rabies, tuberculosis, and cholera. Over the course of 200 years, one of the deadliest diseases known to man – the smallpox – was wiped off the face of the earth.  Since then, virtually all vaccines have worked using the same concept. That was until a new technology, called mRNA, came along and created game-changing possibilities for the future of healthcare. Its high effectiveness,?capacity for rapid development and potential for low?production costs was evident during the Covid-19 pandemic two separate mRNA vaccines were developed and approved for use in just a matter of months.  

Anaesthesia (1846)

Before the first use of a general anaesthetic in the mid-19th century, surgery was undertaken only as a last resort, with several patients opting for death rather than enduring the excruciating ordeal. Although there were countless earlier experiments with anaesthetic dating as far back to 4000 BC – William T. G. Morton made history in 1846 when he successfully used ether as an anaesthetic during surgery. Soon after, a faster-acting substance called chloroform became widely used but was considered high-risk after several fatalities were reported. Since the 1800s, safer anaesthetics have been developed, allowing millions of life-saving, painless operations to take place. 

Germ theory (1861)

Before the ‘germ’ theory came about, the widely believed theory was that disease was caused by ‘spontaneous generation’. In other words, physicians of the time thought that disease could appear out of thin air, rather than being air-borne or transferred via skin-to-skin contact. In 1861, French microbiologist Louis Pasteur proved through a simple experiment that infectious disease was a result of an invasion of specific microscopic organisms - also known as pathogens - into living hosts. This new understanding marked a significant turning point in how diseases were treated, controlled and prevented, helping to prevent devastating epidemics that were responsible for thousands of deaths every year, such as the plague, dysentery and typhoid fever. 

Medical imaging (1895)

The first medical imaging machines were X-rays. The X-ray, a form of electromagnetic radiation, was ‘accidentally’ invented in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad R?ntgen when experimenting with electrical currents through glass cathode-ray tubes. The discovery transformed medicine overnight and by the following year, Glasgow hospital opened the world's very first radiology department. 

Ultrasound, although originally discovered many years before, began being used for medical diagnosis in 1955. This medical imaging device uses high frequency sound waves to create a digital image, and was no less than ground-breaking in terms of detecting pre-natal conditions and other pelvic and abdominal abnormalities. In 1967, the computed tomography (CT) scanner was created, which uses X-ray detectors and computers to diagnose many different types of disease, and has become a fundamental diagnostic tool in modern medicine. 

The next major medical imaging technology was discovered in 1973 when Paul Lauterbur produced the first magnetic resonance image (MRI). The nuclear magnetic resonance data creates detailed images within the body and is a crucial tool in detecting life-threatening conditions including tumours, cysts, damage to the brain and spinal cord and some heart and liver problems.

Antibiotics (1928)

Alexander Fleming’s penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic, completely revolutionised the war against deadly bacteria. Famously, the Scottish biologist accidentally discovered the anti-bacterial ‘mould’ in a petri dish in 1928. However, Fleming’s incredible findings were not properly recognised until the 1940s, when they began being mass-produced by American drug companies for use in World War II. Two other scientists were responsible for the mass distribution of penicillin, Australian Howard Florey and Nazi-Germany refugee Ernst Chain, and their development of the substance ended up saving millions of future lives. Unfortunately, over the years certain bacterium have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics, leading to a world-wide crisis that calls for the pharmaceutical industry to develop new anti-bacterial treatments as soon as possible.

Organ transplants (1954)

In December 1954, the first successful kidney transplant was carried out by Dr Joseph Murray and Dr David Hume in Boston, USA. Despite many previous attempts in history, this was the first instance where the recipient of an organ transplant survived the operation. The turning point came when various technical issues were overcome, such as vascular anastomosis (the connection between two blood vessels), placement of the kidney and immune response. In 1963, the first lung transplant was carried out, followed by a pancreas/kidney in 1966, and liver and heart in 1967. Aside from saving thousands of lives in the years following, transplant procedures have also become increasingly innovative and complex, with doctors successfully completing the first hand transplant in 1998 and full-face transplant in 2010! 

Antiviral drugs (1960s)

Terrible viruses such as small-pox, influenza and hepatitis have ravaged many human populations throughout history. Unlike the sweeping success of antibiotics in the late 1930s and 1940s, the development of antivirals did not really take off until the 1960s. This was mostly due to the structure of a virus, which was a core of genetic material surrounded by a protective protein coat that hides and reproduces inside a person’s cells. As the virus information is so protected, it was difficult to treat them without damaging the host cell. Over the years antivirals have improved significantly, and work by blocking the rapid reproduction of viral infections, and some can even stimulate the immune system to attack the virus. The development of effective antivirals has been significant in treating and controlling the spread of deadly virus outbreaks such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola and rabies.   

Stem cell therapy (1970s)

The incredible potential of stem cells was discovered in the late 1970s, when they were found inside human cord blood. Two specific characteristics make stem cells remarkable: they are unspecialised cells that can renew themselves through cell division even after being inactive, and under certain conditions can be used to make any type of human cell. This discovery has enormous potential and stem cell therapy has already been used to treat leukaemia and other blood disorders, as well as in bone marrow transplantation. Research is currently ongoing to use stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries and a number of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’ and strokes. However, due to the ethical issues surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells, researchers are likely to face many obstacles when developing stem cell-based therapy.

Immunotherapy (1970s)

Immunotherapy, a treatment that stimulates the immune system to fight off a disease, has been in the making for over a century. The story began in the 1890s with the experimental work of William B. Coley who injected inactive bacteria into cancerous tumours, achieving remission in some patients. However, it is only in the last 40 years that serious progress has been made in immunotherapy, particularly in respect to treating cancer. In the 1970s, antibody therapies were developed and in 1991, researchers produced the first cancer vaccine which was approved by the FDA in 2010. In the last decade, immuno-oncology has become one of the most revolutionary cancer therapies in existence.  

Artificial intelligence (21st century)

Having been in gradual development since the turn of the century, artificial intelligence has already produced impressive technologies that have significantly altered the healthcare landscape. Life science companies and research institutions are teaming up with pioneering technology giants such as Google, IBM and Apple to invent smarter and faster ways to deal with diseases. These innovative technologies range from diagnostic tools that can detect malignant tumours invisible to the naked eye, to cognitive computing systems that produce tailored treatment plans for cancer patients. The potential of artificial intelligence in detecting, diagnosing and treating disease is rapidly unfolding before us and looks set to transform the future. 

 

This will be the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

DESTROYING The Welfare State

Thomas Sowell DESTROYS The Welfare State In One Sentence

 

Black Americans still face a struggle in American society that some people do not recognize. While the United States is the land of opportunity for all regardless of race, many black Americans find getting out of poverty a nearly impossible task. It is an incredibly sad situation, but one which has clearly identifiable roots.

While the Left will claim that there is a massive system of racist repression throughout our society that black Americans need to overcome, the real issue is not something as simple as the legacies of slavery or Jim Crow. While those institutions are blights upon our history, those factors do not directly affect the everyday lives of black Americans in the same way that another institution does currently.

That institution, as discussed by economist Walter Williams, is the welfare state, and specifically its legacy of destruction on the family unit.

It’s no secret that crime rates are higher among black Americans; it is also no secret that the vast majority of births in the black American population happen outside of wedlock, 75% to be exact. But why is this the case?

The welfare state has systematically preyed upon the family unit of black Americans since its inception. The way the system is structured financially incentivizes single parent households, and organizations like Planned Parenthood have also done their part to rip apart the fabric of the family as well.

The numbers are simple staggering, as Williams notes:

“The No. 1 problem among blacks is the effects stemming from a very weak family structure. Children from fatherless homes are likelier to drop out of high school, die by suicide, have behavioral disorders, join gangs, commit crimes and end up in prison. They are also likelier to live in poverty-stricken households. But is the weak black family a legacy of slavery? In 1960, just 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Fifty years later, more than 70 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Here’s my question: Was the increase in single-parent black families after 1960 a legacy of slavery, or might it be a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty?”

The underhanded attack on the family over the past several decades has produced tangible results. While it is difficult to quantify the importance of the family, and exactly how its existence affects a child’s life, one can see the effects of is absence clearly just by looking at families that stick together vs. those who separate.

“The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.”

Just let that thought sink in for a second. The black family unit was more intact during the years of systemic racism and oppression than it is now, after slavery and Jim Crow have largely been erased from our nation’s politics.

“At one time, almost all black families were poor, regardless of whether one or both parents were present. Today roughly 30 percent of blacks are poor. However, two-parent black families are rarely poor. Only 8 percent of black married-couple families live in poverty. Among black families in which both the husband and wife work full time, the poverty rate is under 5 percent. Poverty in black families headed by single women is 37 percent. The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.”

The welfare state’s assault on the family unit has wrought devastation on black America. Children need to have both parents in their youth. Sometimes single parents can sufficiently raise a child, but on a systemic level, as a general rule, both parents need to be together, taking an active role in raising up their children.

The results of failing to do so are increased crime rates, decreased economic activity, and further breakdown of whatever semblance of the family that remains after several generations of assault.

“Then there’s education. Many black 12th-graders deal with scientific problems at the level of whites in the sixth grade. They write and do math about as well as white seventh- and eighth-graders. All of this means that an employer hiring or a college admitting the typical black high school graduate is in effect hiring or admitting an eighth-grader. Thus, one should not be surprised by the outcomes.”

Williams concludes by saying that the idea that slavery and segregation have created these problems only perpetuates what we currently see. The politicians who support government policies like the War on Poverty and labor laws backed by unions only hold down black Americans on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder; right where they can prey on them for votes, handing out false promises that will never be fulfilled.

It’s truly saddening to see an entire population of Americans being repressed in such an underhanded way, and the means of repression are not in the form of slavery or Jim Crow laws, but in the form of an attack on the last thing upon which black Americans could rely: the family.

 

This will be the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

A Growing Cancer On Congress

A Growing Cancer On Congress: The Curse Of Party-Line Voting

Just as White House Counsel John Dean famously proclaimed the Watergate cover-up of the 1970s a “cancer on the presidency,” there is now a growing cancer on Congress.  The rapid and pervasive rise of party-line voting is a cancer that is eating at the effectiveness of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  As a consequence, what was once the world’s most deliberative body, the US Senate, hardly deliberates at all, and what little is accomplished in Washington is done through party-line votes and executive orders, with devastating consequences.

The recent tax reform bill is Exhibit A, with zero Democrats voting for it in either the House or the Senate.  One Republican in the Senate and 13 in the House broke ranks to vote against it, largely out of a concern over its predicted increase in the federal debt.  With only one party at the table working on the bill, its provisions were developed last minute, with handwritten edits presented on the floor.  Deliberation, if it happened at all, was limited to one side of the aisle and a very narrow range of choices were considered in a short time frame.

Unfortunately party-line voting has become the new normal.  As recently as the early 1970s, party unity voting was around 60% but today it is closer to 90% in both the House and Senate.  If you think about the major legislative accomplishments of recent presidents, beginning with George W. Bush, you can see the problem.  Campaigning for the presidency by touting his work across the aisle as governor of Texas, Bush found that more difficult in Washington.  In his first year as president, Congress passed his No Child Left Behind education bill with strong bipartisan support, 384-45 in the House and 91-8 in the Senate.  But his next major legislation, prescription drugs for seniors, was hotly debated and the vote came largely on party lines, at least in the House, with only 8 Democrats supporting it and 8 Republicans against.

Part of Barack Obama’s “hope and change” message as a candidate included making Washington work in a bipartisan way, but that got little traction.  The Affordable Care Act, perhaps the most important piece of domestic legislation in 50 years, was passed on a straight party-line vote of Democrats.  Bipartisanship completely fell apart when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans’ “single most important thing” was making sure Obama was a one-term president, and Obama announced that he had “a pen and a phone” and would just take executive action to get things done.

Now we are shocked when Senator John McCain flies back to the Capitol from cancer treatments to announce he would not vote to repeal and replace Obamacare without a bipartisan conversation involving both parties to find the best solution.  An opinion piece in the conservative Washington Times called him “a traitor to the conservative cause.”  Apparently party discipline is more important than finding the right solution to the complex set of health care issues.

One unfortunate consequence of all this party-line voting and executive action is that policy swings back and forth or is held in the balance.  Obamacare is passed on a party-line vote and nearly repealed on one.  The same is true for Dodd-Frank.  Obama’s executive orders are simply overturned by his successor Donald Trump.  Is this any way to run a government?

One underlying problem is that the two major parties are now better sorted than before.  Whereas both the Republican and Democratic parties had some liberals, moderates and conservatives in an earlier day, now Republicans are predictably conservative and Democrats are liberal.  But another problem is that all politicians seem to care about in Washington is how a vote will best position them and their party for the next election, rather than what will make for a great piece of legislation.  Congress has devolved to marketing and winning, not deliberation and great policy.

Only when a few statesmen and the American voters stand up against party-line voting will anything change.

 

This will be the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Problems With FISA Part 3

Lacking Congressional Oversight

In practice, congressional oversight of the FISA process and the underlying materials is severely constrained. Although they have security clearances by virtue of their office, many lawmakers are kept far away from classified documents because they do not have cleared staff to assist in processing the information, and their requests are given lower priority than members of the intelligence oversight committees.

Even members of those House and Senate intelligence committees do not always have access to everything. In the case of the Nunes memo, only the “Gang of Eight” congressional leaders and a handful of others out of the 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 100 members of the Senate reportedly had access to the underlying FISA surveillance applications and un-redacted FISC opinions.

This problem has restricted Congress members before. In 2003, when then-House intelligence committee chairman Jay Rockefeller learned of the NSA’s unconstitutional spying programs under President George W. Bush, he had little capability to fight back. He wrote to then-Vice President Dick Cheney:

“As you know, I am neither a technician nor an attorney. Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities."

Rockefeller—who knew of the programs—could not speak of them. For everyone else, reading FISA and FISC materials is close to impossible. Even after Congress passed the USA FREEDOM Act in 2015 requiring that significant FISC Opinions be released to the public, these opinions are still highly redacted and tightly guarded, and no FISA application material has never been revealed to the public.

It’s for these reasons that EFF has long called for Congress to reform how it oversees surveillance activities conducted by the Executive Branch, including by providing all members of Congress with the tools they need to meaningfully understand and challenge activities that are so often veiled in extreme secrecy.

 

This will be a four part series, this is part three of four on the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Problems With FISA Part 2

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Its Regime of Secrecy

 

Passed in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) dictates how the government conducts physical and electronic surveillance for national security purposes against “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers.” FISA allows surveillance against “U.S. persons,” Americans and others in the U.S., so long as the agency doing the surveillance demonstrates and provides probable cause that the U.S. person is engaged in terrorism, espionage, or other activities on behalf of a foreign power.

Typically when law enforcement conducts a search, the Fourth Amendment requires that they get a search warrant approved by a neutral magistrate, a judge assigned to hear warrant applications. Under FISA, surveillance orders go through a slightly different review. The statute created an entirely separate court venue filled with 11 judges designated to review FISA surveillance orders. These judges make up the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).                                                                                    

Similar to how courts review standard search warrants, FISC judges review FISA surveillance applications out of public view. Judges typically hear arguments from the government and no one else, court hearings are not public, and the FISA orders themselves are kept secret.

(Notably, this warrant-like review does not happen under Section 702 of FISA, which the NSA uses to collect billions of communications without a warrant, including Americans’ communications. Under Section 702, which you can read about here, FISC judges do not review individual targets of surveillance and instead sign off on programmatic surveillance policies.)

In the FISC, secrecy in each step is heightened. The court’s opinions and any transcript or record of the proceedings are automatically classified. Even the court’s physical location is constructed to be “the nation’s most secure courtroom,” with reinforced concrete and hand scanners to keep unauthorized people out.

This secrecy is hard to unravel after the fact. When recently asked by Rep. Nunes for more information about the renewed FISA surveillance warrant on Carter Page, Rosemary Collyer, the presiding judge of the FISC wrote:

“As you know, any such transcripts would be classified. It may also be helpful for me to observe that, in a typical process of considering an application, we make no systematic record of questions we ask or responses the government gives.”

Although surveillance conducted for run-of-the-mill law enforcement is often shadowy, the FISA process is far more shielded from public view. For example, standard search warrants are used to gather evidence for later prosecutions that are by default public. That means at some point the government has to face—and knows it has to face—a defense attorney’s efforts to question the evidence gathered from the search warrant. This is known as a “motion to suppress,” and with typical search warrants, these motions are filed in a public court. When that court hears a motion to suppress, it usually issues an order discussing why the surveillance violated—or didn’t violate—the law. This is how our legal system is intended to function. Lawyers and the public actually learn what the law is through this process, because in our system it is the duty of courts to “say what the law is.” For that reason, secret law is a perversion of our system.

Moreover, the public disclosure of law enforcement search warrants serves important ends outside of any particular legal challenge. For one, they let the public know what police are doing, both in their name and with their tax dollars. Second, they allow for greater accountability when police overstep their authority or otherwise misbehave.

FISC proceedings routinely fail this test.

FISA orders are for foreign intelligence purposes, so the surveillance is rarely used in a prosecution and rarely challenged in a motion to suppress.  Moreover, even if the fruits of FISA surveillance are used in court, criminal defendants and other litigants are deprived of access to this information, so they have little way of knowing if evidence brought against them may have come from an improper FISA order. (FISA provides a mechanism for defendants to request this information, but no defendant has succeeded in doing so in FISA’s 40-year history.) This impedes a defendant’s ability to challenge their prosecution, and it prevents related, public knowledge of these challenges.

But the secrecy in FISA extends much further than FISC, adding further opaque layers between what intelligence agencies and the court do and what the public sees.

 

This will be a four part series, this is part two of four on the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Problems With FISA Part 1

The Problems With FISA, Secrecy, and Automatically Classified Information

 

We need to talk about national security secrecy. Right now, there are two memos on everyone’s mind, each with its own version of reality. But the memos are just one piece. How the memos came to be—and why they continue to roil the waters in Congress—is more important.                                   

On January 19, staff for Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) wrote a classified memo alleging that the FBI and DOJ committed surveillance abuses in its applications for and renewal of a surveillance order against former Trump administration advisor Carter Page. Allegedly, the FBI and DOJ’s surveillance application included biased, politically-funded information.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on which Rep. Nunes serves as chairman, later voted to release the memo. What the memo meant, however, depended on who was talking.  Some Republican House members took the memo as fact, claiming it showed “abuse” and efforts to “undermine our country.”  But Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)—who serves as Ranking Member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, across from Nunes—called the memo “profoundly misleading” and, in an opinion for The Washington Post, said it “cherry-picks facts.”

Even the FBI entered the debate, slamming the memo and saying the agency had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy." And Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd of the DOJ said releasing the memo without review would be “extraordinarily reckless.” Finally, the president said the memo “totally vindicates” him from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into his administration.

So a lawmaker made serious charges about surveillance abuses and corruption at the highest levels, and the rest of Congress and the public were ensnared in a guessing game: Could they trust Devin Nunes and what he says? Is the memo he wrote, and the allegations in it, just smoke or is there fire? Unfortunately, the information needed to evaluate his claims is hidden within multiple, nested layers of secrecy.

The secrecy starts with surveillance applications and secret court opinions, which are protected by classification that requires proper security clearance. Only a handful of lawmakers can read the materials, but even they can’t openly discuss them in public. They could write a report, but the FBI and Justice Department would ask to redact the report. After redactions, the report would be subject to a committee vote for release. If the report is cleared by committee, it ordinarily requires the president’s approval.

At any point in the process, this information could have been mislabeled, misidentified, embellished, or obscured, and we’d have almost no way of knowing.

It’s time to talk about FISA again, and the problems with its multi-layered secrecy regime.

We’re going to talk about a surveillance law that, when passed, installed secrecy both in a court system and in Congress, barring the public and their representatives from accessing important information. When that information is partially revealed, it’s near impossible for the public to trust it.

 

This will be a four part series, this is part one of four on the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior

Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior

 

By age sixteen, Washington had copied out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. Presumably they were copied out as part of an exercise in penmanship assigned by young Washington's schoolmaster. The first English translation of the French rules appeared in 1640, and are ascribed to Francis Hawkins the twelve-year-old son of a doctor. 

 

Today many, if not all of these rules, sound a little fussy if not downright silly. It would be easy to dismiss them as outdated and appropriate to a time of powdered wigs and quills, but they reflect a focus that is increasingly difficult to find. The rules have in common a focus on other people rather than the narrow focus of our own self-interests that we find so prevalent today. Fussy or not, they represent more than just manners. They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make for the good of all and the sake of living together. 

 

These rules proclaim our respect for others and in turn give us the gift of self-respect and heightened self-esteem. 

 

Richard Brookhiser, in his book on Washington wrote that "all modern manners in the western world were originally aristocratic. Courtesy meant behavior appropriate to a court; chivalry comes from chevalier – a knight. Yet Washington was to dedicate himself to freeing America from a court's control. Could manners survive the operation? Without realizing it, the Jesuits who wrote them, and the young man who copied them, were outlining and absorbing a system of courtesy appropriate to equals and near-equals. When the company for whom the decent behavior was to be performed expanded to the nation, Washington was ready. Parson Weems got this right, when he wrote that it was 'no wonder every body honoured him who honoured every body.'"

 

This will conclude the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 6

How the U.S. government tackles gun trafficking — and what’s changed under Trump

 

There is an official government process in place to tackle the gun trafficking. But while critics have continued calling on the government to do more, it’s unclear whether the Trump administration has prioritized the issue.

Under an existing agreement, ATF and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security that investigates illicit activities, work together to tackle gun trafficking to Mexico and Central America. The agencies’ cooperation is outlined in a memorandum of understanding, first reached in 2009, which established how the agencies should collaborate and share intelligence.

Currently, the two agencies meet monthly “to navigate the complexities associated with illegal international firearms trafficking and to cultivate relationships to improve the working knowledge of agencies,” said Matthew Bourke, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The investigations agency also conducts probes and carries out arrests. According to government data, in 2018, HSI opened 1,269 investigations and made 546 arrests that were related to Counter Proliferation Investigations, a program that focuses on weapons trafficking.

Still, in recent years some government agencies have called for more action.

In its 2016 report, GAO issued another recommendation for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) calling for a revision to the Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, a biennial report issued by ONDCP since 2007 outlining a strategy to curb the flow of illicit drugs, associated proceeds, and instruments of violence across the U.S.-Mexico border. The auditing agency recommended including in this document a set of indicators that would better measure efforts to curtail arms trafficking across the border. ONDCP has not revised the strategy since 2016 and has not yet implemented GAO’s recommendation.

“As of February of 2019, the time of our most recent outreach, there was no change in the situation,” said Jenny Grover, GAO analyst.

In March, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., requested an update to the 2016 GAO report that determined that 70 percent of firearms seized in Mexico come from the United States.

“The Trump administration talks tough, but they have turned a blind eye to this ‘iron river’ of guns flowing south. I’ve asked GAO to update its analysis of this firearms trafficking to help inform Congress’s efforts to address this challenge,” Durbin told the PBS NewsHour in a statement.

The need for more and better data on guns flowing south to Latin America from the U.S. cannot be overstated, said Matt Schroeder, a senior analyst at Small Arms Survey. Until the government has a better understanding of the problem, gun trafficking will remain a serious issue.

“Publicly available data on the arms trade — both legal and illegal — is scant,” Schroeder said. “The data that is available is often woefully inadequate for tracking illicit arms flows and identifying the sources of black market weapons.”

 

This will conclude the sixth part of this blog and will be the final part in the series. I hope you enjoyed the series and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 5

Could stricter regulations mean less trafficking? Not necessarily

 

The availability of military assault weapons in the United States drives demand for American firearms in Mexico. “You can into gun stores in America and buy anything you need to outfit an army,” Rand said. “There’s so much lethal firepower so readily available. That’s the crux of the problem.”

Military assault weapons and ammunition bought in the U.S. can be sold for triple their original price in Mexico, which makes trafficking such a lucrative enterprise, said Zapor, the retired ATF agent.

“The firearm that I’m paying $390 for in Arizona, I’m selling in the Republic of Mexico for $4,000,” he said.

What’s more, informal firearm transactions on the so-called “gray market” — sales that occur on the margins of the legal, regulated gun market — are exceedingly difficult to monitor. That’s because straw buyers often resell the guns they buy online, where it is sometimes possible to purchase guns without a background check. And while some states require a licensed intermediary for private gun sales, others have no regulations on private sales.

The issue could be tackled by eliminating the gray market and requiring all sellers and purchasers to complete their transactions, including online sales, through a licensed dealer, Zapor said.

“The [gun] manufacturers don’t want this because the gray market accounts for millions, multiple millions of dollars in revenue from firearm sales,” Zapor said.

According to a 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 22 percent of people who acquired a gun in the U.S. in the previous two years did so without a background check.

Others pointed to lax regulations at gun shows as another factor driving gun trafficking.

“The exceptions made at gun shows certainly are a weak spot, I would say for the United States and for Mexico,” Wood said. “A lot of those purchases that take place in gun shows, typically take place close to the border. “

The lack of a federal database of gun serial numbers and transactions in the U.S. plays a role as well in stymying efforts to stop trafficking. U.S. gun laws prohibit a national registry, which means that there is no database tracking gun transactions. ATF is not allowed to keep a database of gun owners. (Mexico has a database of gun applications and licenses maintained by the Secretariat of National Defense.)

When ATF wants information on a firearm, the agency “will reach out to the gun store, and then they will rely on the gun story to provide that data,” said Colby Goodman, a firearm expert and former director of Security Assistance, an organization dedicated to making information about U.S. security and defense assistance programs publicly available. “But if the gun store is in on it, you’re not going to get the right information,” he added.

In interviews, several owners of gun stores along the U.S.-Mexico border said they did not think stricter regulations would stop gun trafficking.

Store owners and employees have their own methods for weeding out potential straw buyers, said John Dury, the owner of Dury’s Gun Shop in San Antonio, Texas. Typically potential buyers are asked what they’re planning to use the gun for, and if the buyer seems unsure or lacks knowledge about the gun, the employee can stop the purchase, Dury said.

“I don’t think the problem comes from legitimate stores,” Dury said. “I think that happens more in the stolen gun market than anything. If people know there are so many background checks, they don’t want to put their name in that.”

Mike Davis, the manager of AZ Guns in Arizona, said that an individual can buy a gun in a store in the state of Arizona and “go sell it in the parking lot” without a license.

The National Rifle Association did not have a comment on whether existing gun laws play a role in gun trafficking and straw purchasing. However, in a 2009 statement on the topic, the NRA singled out Mexico’s restrictive gun laws as one of the factors that spurs weapons trafficking.

“Obviously, Mexico has a huge problem with rampant corruption that clearly cannot be blamed on the U.S.,” the NRA said in the statement at the time. “At the same time, Mexico has extremely prohibitive gun laws, yet has far worse crime than the U.S.”

 

This will conclude the Fifth part of this blog and will be broken in a series. Look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 4

What the U.S. is doing to fight this now

ATF has four offices in Mexico, staffed by 11 special agents and 14 local staff that provide investigative support, according to Engelbert, the ATF spokesperson. The agency works with federal, state and municipal law enforcement authorities in Mexico, including the office of Mexico’s attorney general and the federal police, as well as the Mexican army, navy and customs agencies. ATF in Mexico assists local law enforcement with gun tracing and provides investigative support as well.

The agency’s personnel in Mexico initiate gun tracing operations when Mexican law enforcement request information on guns seized in homicides and other crime scenes in the country. The percentage of traces depends directly on the amount of weapons seized and reported by Mexican authorities.

And the amount of illegally trafficked weapons in Mexico is likely higher than official data suggests, since some weapons go unreported, and other weapons are stolen from the scene of the crime, said Bernard Zapor, a retired ATF agent who worked at the agency for 25 years. In some cases, Mexican authorities come across a firearm or a cache of firearms and don’t record the find or officially turn them over in a way that shows up in government statistics. “They might not ever report them. They might keep them,” Zapor said.

Data sharing, or the lack thereof, is another lingering challenge facing ATF efforts to stop gun smuggling in Mexico. In 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto, who left office last year, initiated a policy known as Ventanilla Unica, which limited access to ATF’s gun tracing database to certain officials in the Mexican attorney general’s office. In its 2016 report on gun trafficking, the Government Accountability Office noted that U.S. officials and some Mexican officials expressed concern that limiting access to the tracing database would complicate efforts for bilateral cooperation on gun trafficking.

This limited access to ATF’s tracing database under Peña Nieto continues to be a problem.

“ATF recommends more access to eTrace by allowing accounts for other federal, state and municipal law enforcement stakeholders,” an ATF spokesperson said in an email. “Mexico believes more accounts will lead to more immediate submissions of traces and therefore quicker results for generating leads in firearms trafficking investigations.”

 

This will conclude the fourth part of this blog and will be broken in a series. Look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 3

How guns go south

So-called “straw purchasers” play a key role in firearms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico and other points south. Typically “straw purchasers” are intermediary or middleman buyers who purchase and execute all the paperwork required for a legal firearm transaction on behalf of someone else. These purchasers are usually American citizens who adhere to U.S. gun laws, including passing a background check or meeting other applicable federal and state gun laws.

In many cases, “traffickers will run a ring of straw buyers,” said Kristen Rand, the legislative director for the Violence Policy Center. “The traffickers are exploiting the background check system because they just find people who can have the background check, and as long as they don’t raise suspicion with the dealer, then it’s difficult to identify that this is illegal.”

Straw buyers also evade suspicion typically by avoiding buying guns in bulk. Instead of going to stores and buying 20 or 40 guns at a time, straw buyers often buy only one or two weapons, Rand said.

Once the guns are purchased, traffickers face the next challenge: smuggling them across the border without getting caught. But traffickers have ways to surmount this obstacle as well.

For starters, guns can be disassembled into many parts, making them easier to hide.The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Mexican government officials, have told the U.S. Government Accountability Office that smuggling weapon parts often limits bilateral collaboration to trace firearms, according to a 2016 GAO report that looks at U.S. efforts to combat gun trafficking.

A 2016 study by the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project that’s part of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, found that the majority of weapons trafficked from the U.S. into Mexico are smuggled over land in vehicles. The type of vehicles vary, as well as the manner in which weapons are concealed, factors that further complicate government efforts to stop the smuggling, the study noted.

Trafficking cases documented from 2009 and 2015 reveal the variety of ways gun runners hide guns in vehicles.

“Trafficked weapons were hidden in every conceivable location, including in the fuel tank, above the exhaust system, and under the bumpers,” the study said.

 

This will conclude the third part of this blog and will be broken in a series. Look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 2

Gun laws in Mexico

On paper it’s significantly harder to legally purchase a firearm in Mexico than it is in the United States. So if it’s so difficult to buy a gun in Mexico, where do all of the country’s guns come from? The answer has as much if not more to do with U.S. gun policy than with Mexico’s, though the issue is rarely brought up in America’s political debates over gun control and border security.

The right to own guns is in Mexico’s constitution, as it is in the U.S., but Mexican gun laws are highly restrictive. The Mexican army is the only entity allowed to sell guns in the country, either to private security firms, private citizens or to local police. In fact, there is only one legal gun store in the country, which is also run by the Mexican army and located in Mexico City. Assault weapons and any weapon more powerful than a .38 caliber gun is banned from personal use, with few exceptions. Only the military is allowed to use high-powered firearms.

To apply for a gun license, applicants must have a crime-free record, employment, and to have served in the military, according to Mexico’s federal law of arms and explosives. But the army sells the majority of weapons to law enforcement entities, according to public records obtained by Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico, an organization whose goal is to stop illegal gun trade in Mexico. From 2010 to 2016, the army sold 166,763 firearms to local police forces — 55 percent of all the guns sold by the army during that period. Twenty percent – 67,725 – were retail sales to individuals.

The low number of approved licenses for carrying firearms is striking. Between 2013 and 2018 only 218 licenses to carry guns were issued, according to a public document issued by the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), Mexico’s equivalent of the U.S. Department of Defense and the government agency in charge of issuing gun licenses.

But applications to acquire firearms have been on the rise. According to SEDENA, the agency received 55,567 applications to purchase firearms between 2013 and 2018. Between 2007 and 2012, during Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s administration, 42,431 applications were reported. From 2010 through 2016, SEDENA reported the government selling 8,000 to 12,000 guns to the public annually.

Gun manufacturers in other countries, such as Germany, also supply weapons to Mexico. But lax U.S. gun laws and proximity to Mexico are key factors that drive guns south from the United States. An ongoing study of arms trafficking to Mexico and other Latin American countries, conducted by the Violence Policy Center, shows that military-style semi-automatic firearms comprise the majority of weapons smuggled south. These can be easily purchased in the United States, and are often harder to buy legally in other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, where automatic weapons are banned for civilians.

“As long as you have that violence continuing in Mexico, you’re going to continue to have a demand for weapons,” said Duncan Wood, the director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “And the easiest way to get those weapons is from the United States.”

There have been efforts in Congress to create legislation to tackle firearm trafficking. In 2017, Reps. Norma Torres, D-Calif, Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., introduced legislation to stop the flow of arms to Mexico. But these efforts have stalled in Congress.

“Trafficking illegal guns to and from Mexico is currently not a federal crime. It really doesn’t get much crazier than that,” Engel said in 2017. “This is just another example of how incredibly lax our gun laws are. Gun runners can cross state and international borders right now without fear of federal prosecution. The federal government is also prohibited from compiling data on this type of activity, also due to our arcane gun laws.”

 

 

This will conclude the second part of this blog and will discuss more in part three. So look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 1

The border debates' missing argument?

 

While an administration’s hardline approach to immigration has focused on dealing with an influx of migrants along the southern border, which Trump in speeches and tweets also ties to an influx of drugs and crime, he did not addressed a central part of the violence that drives the displacement of many families in Mexico and Central America: guns, the majority of which flow from the U.S. to Mexico.

Mexico’s murder rate is at an all-time high, according to that nation’s official figures. In 2018, the Mexican government recorded more than 30,000 intentional murders. A majority of those murders — 20,005 — were committed with firearms, according to government data.

Twenty percent of all homicides in Mexico last year were related to organized crime, according to a study from the University of San Diego, though the study noted the estimate was conservative and the figure was likely higher. The violence has been largely concentrated in drug trafficking regions in the northwest and the Pacific Coast region. The country, which has a population of 125 million, had more than 10,000 homicides recorded between January and May of this year.

Research shows that a majority of guns in Mexico can be traced to the U.S. A report from the U.S Government Accountability Office showed that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico by Mexican authorities and submitted for tracing have a U.S. origin. This percentage remains consistent, said Bradley Engelbert, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And the Trump administration has recently taken steps to ease rules on gun exports, which enables manufacturers to sell guns in Mexico and Central America countries.

A report from the Center of American Progress found that the United States was the primary source of weapons used in crime in Mexico and Canada. Other countries in Central America can also trace a large proportion of guns seized in crimes to the United States. For example, the report found that from 2014 to 2016, 49 percent of crime guns seized in El Salvador were originally purchased in the U.S. In Honduras, 45 percent of guns recovered in crime scenes were traced to the United States as well.

“The U.S. should immediately stop the flow of guns and bulk cash across its southern border,” Sarukhan wrote in a tweet.

Still, the gun trafficking issue has largely been overshadowed by other immigration policy debates.

 

This will conclude the first part of this blog and will be broken into a series. Look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

Why are we blaming guns, not killers?

Why are we blaming guns, not killers?

 

It’s an interesting phenomenon that, when looking at murders, most of the time the crime is rightly blamed on the murderer. The only exception to that seems to be when it comes to firearms.  When it’s learned that a gun was used in a crime, many hide their eyes, cover their ears, close their minds and just keep repeating, “We need more gun control.” In fact, a survey from Rasmussen Reports indicates that one-third of people think that access to firearms is more at fault than the killers themselves.

Rasmussen’s telephone and online survey of 1,000 American adults asked the question point-blank: “In crimes involving use of a gun, which is more to blame—the shooter or the availability of guns in America?” An astonishing 31 percent of people placed the blame on an inanimate object, the gun, and not the person pulling the trigger. Unsurprisingly, Democrats were much more likely than Republicans—51 percent to 13 percent—to blame the object over the person.

It’s worth asking” Do these same people think access to vehicles is more at fault than drivers? Are knives more at fault than stabbers? If not, why? What makes guns different?

Actually, what makes guns different is simply a political agenda. Liberals have long been on a mission to obliterate guns, the Constitution and freedom in America. Gun control has never been about guns; it has always been about controlling people.

The only difference today is that anti-gunners are openly admitting their end game. People who blame the gun over the killer aren’t looking for real solutions. They’re simply furthering an agenda.

 

What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)

CRT was an intellectual development in the late 1970s and early 1980s in which some scholars, perturbed by what they perceived as a loss of momentum in the movement for racial equality, began to doubt that the constitutional and legal system itself had the capacity for change.

This criticism mirrored a Marxist attack long voiced in academia: that the Constitution had been a capitalist document incapable of allowing for the redistributionist change necessary to create a more equal world. To create a more equal world, the Constitution and the legal system would have to be endlessly criticized – hence critical theory – and torn down from within. 

The Marxist criticism of the system was called critical theory; the racial criticism of the system was therefore called Critical Race Theory.

So, what does CRT believe? In their primer, Critical Race Theory, Richard Delgado (one of the movement’s founders) and Jean Stefancic set out some basic principles:

  1. “Racism is ordinary, not aberrational”;
  2. “Our system of white-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes, both psychic and material.”

When taken together, these principles have serious ramifications. First, they suggest that legal rules that stand for equal treatment under law – i.e. the 14th Amendment – can remedy “only the most blatant forms of discrimination.” The system is too corrupted, too based on the notion of white supremacy, for equal protection of the laws to ever be a reality. The system must be made unequal in order to compensate for the innate racism of the white majority.

Second, these principles suggest that even measures taken to alleviate unequal protection under the law – for example, the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education – were actually taken for nefarious purposes, to serve white interests. This is exactly what Derrick Bell believed: he said that Brown had only been decided in order to prevent the Soviet Union from using American racial inequality as a public relations baton to wield against the white-majority United States.

There is some internal conflict within CRT, though. For example, some CRT writers seem to take the Martin Luther King, Jr. line that race is arbitrary, a social construct; the majority, however, suggest that minorities have a special status in society, and something unique to bring to the table. As Delgado and Stefancic write, “Minority status, in other words, brings with a presumed competence to speak about race and racism.”

So here’s what we’re left with, in simple terms. Racism cannot be ended within the current system; the current system is actually both a byproduct of and a continuing excuse for racism. Minority opinions on the system are more relevant than white opinions, since whites have long enjoyed control of the system, and have an interest in maintaining it. This is a deeply disturbing theory. It is damaging both to race relations and to the legal and Constitutional order.