Journalism in the Age of Clickbait

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Newspapers are the lifeblood of American democracy. At least they were. But the last three decades have seen a seismic shift, with storied and less-storied newspapers closing shop as Americans abandon traditional media in favor of more tailored, narrowly focused, and increasingly digital sources of news. More than half of Americans now rely on social media and other algorithm-curated news sources to help choose the articles they read. And only 16% continue to read newspapers and other print news sources, down from almost 50% as recently as 2013. Local newsrooms have been particularly hard hit, with nearly 1,800 newspapers having closed since 2004.

In her new book, Saving the News, Harvard Law School Professor Martha Minow warns that the shift to online news is no mere change to digital window dressing. It is a revolutionary departure that could prove catastrophic for the democratic engagement that news reporting nourishes. Most disruptive to the news industry, says Minow, has been the loss of the subscription revenues that newspapers rely on to fund newsgathering and investigative journalism.

The News We Read

Subscription revenues have been undermined in two ways. First, consumers have become so accustomed to free online content that newspapers have been forced to follow suit—offering up content for free and relying on advertising revenues to fund their operations. Like many businesses, newspapers have struggled to make the transition. A few marquee publications have successfully migrated their subscriber bases to an online format, but many more have been left scrambling, and largely failing, to attract online views.

Second, the online revolution has pressed newspapers to unbundle their content offerings. Like cable-television providers, newspapers long sold large bundles of content, lumping together everything from national politics to high-school athletics, weather forecasts, and crossword puzzles. Readers interested primarily in national politics and crossword puzzles subsidized local newsgathering and vice versa. Now, however, readers can play their daily word puzzle in one place, often for free, and find their political news elsewhere. With so many options available, readers see no need to get everything in one place. This puts newspapers in competition with more streamlined services for niche content and eliminates an important source of revenue.

It would be one thing if newspaper readers were exchanging their print newspapers for digital ones. But for most publications and for most readers, the shift has been more than a change in medium. Readers are not just receiving their old news sources digitally; they are consuming different genres of news altogether. At the heart of the shift, says Professor Minow, are platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix, whose business models have fundamentally changed our media-consumption habits. Anyone who has found herself scrolling through her Twitter newsfeed or Netflix recommendations is familiar with the new landscape: A virtually infinite variety of content is there for the taking, all tailored to individual preferences. Instead of choosing from whatever is currently playing on the Big Three television networks, viewers now direct their own media consumption.

As platforms become ever more attuned to our preferences, we find ourselves inside individualized content bubbles that show us only what we want to see. This trend has carried over to the news industry. Not only have they changed television viewing habits, Minow explains, but “Amazon, YouTube, and Netflix changed the way vast numbers of people find news.” What’s more, she laments, decisions regarding users’ access to news and other media are made “without even consulting them.” “Instead of offering clear choices, digital platforms . . . rely on analyses of computer data usage that is opaque to users.”

The shift toward self-directed, Netflix-style news feeds has changed not only how Americans read the news but also the types of news stories they choose to read. With more and more news being consumed electronically, there is less need for the capital investment and bulky, expensive printing equipment required for traditional publishers. Low entry costs mean that anyone can become a publisher, whether or not they have investors, capital, or anything useful to say. Even low-quality, cheaply produced, clickbait-type articles can be profitable as long as they attract enough online viewers to bring in advertising dollars.

Media outlets have responded by adopting strategies that maximize revenues in the era of cheap content and self-directed media consumption. One such strategy is narrowcasting, where a news story is tailored to appeal to a small slice of the population rather than the public at large. Traditional publishing formats required newspapers to design content with broad appeal to attract a large subscriber base. But internet publication is so inexpensive that it is now a viable strategy to develop content for a single, niche audience.

Many media outlets have also begun to focus on sensational stories that rouse emotions and attract views, clicks, and advertising dollars by splitting the public into opposing camps. The effect, says Professor Minow, “is to make the user into the product and potentially provide easy vehicles for those who profit from increasing social division, fomenting hatred, and undermining democracy.” Perhaps most concerning of all, however, is the type of content we are losing: independent news outlets, regional news coverage, state and local politics, and investigative journalism—the sorts of reporting that drive vigorous participation in the political process.

Saving the News thus exposes an important trend in American journalism: Tailored, divisive, and potentially addictive online content is supplanting many of the news sources that Americans have relied on for the last century and which have been critical to democratic participation. Professor Minow’s critique, however, somewhat overstates the problem. It must be remembered, after all, that the news sources being displaced by digital media bore their own set of flaws—many of them little different from those we see today. Before Buzzfeed’s ten-question personality quizzes and “Foolproof Signs Your Partner is Cheating,” we had Cosmo and People magazines. And before Breitbart News and David Avocado Wolfe, we had cable news and radio shock jocks. Sensational journalism, narrowcasting, and the other tactics have been around for as long as humans have held idiosyncratic preferences and been attracted to salacious content. Content tailoring and scandal peddling may be cheaper and more targeted in the digital age, but the basic premise is nothing new. Everyone likes a good gossip column.

Minow lays bare a dramatic shift that is underway in American news reporting, and she shows how reform may be possible even within the confines of the First Amendment.

Free Speech Questions

A second shortcoming is related to the first. Professor Minow levels a powerful critique against Facebook, Twitter, and the clickbait articles that they host. Such “computational propaganda,” she argues, “enables a surprising amount of disinformation” by attracting user views (and advertising dollars) with “arresting headlines and attention-drawing ads.” That is certainly true, but by stopping there Professor Minnow leaves largely unexplored the other side of the phenomenon—the Americans who repeatedly choose to read such material and whose historical content preferences have trained the algorithms that now fill their social-media feeds. Online content may be vapid, misleading, and even blatantly false. But it is what Americans choose to read.

That is how the whole big-data, social-media machinery operates: Algorithms figure out what we most like to read and then hit us with a never-ending, firehose blast of it. They are Robert Nozick’s pleasure machines actualized! Behind the battle over social media, we thus find the age-old question of individual freedom versus governmental authority to impose well-meaning restrictions in the name of the public good. By approaching Big Tech one dimensionally, as a malevolent power force-feeding us harmful content, Professor Minow overlooks the struggle within each one of us between what we want in the moment and what we know is good for us.

This criticism of its framing aside, however, Saving the News makes at least two important contributions to the debate. First, it brings into unusually stark relief an important trend in American news reporting: the decline of local, in-depth, and investigative journalism. That in itself would be contribution enough. But Professor Minow’s work shines even more brightly when it turns to consider the First Amendment’s place in the online-news and disinformation debates. Does not the First Amendment, she asks, bar congressional action that would implicate expressive internet content? Were Congress to regulate online news reporting directly, of course, it would almost certainly run afoul of the First Amendment. Adherents to “First Amendment fundamentalism” might see this as the end of the inquiry, but, explains Professor Minow, this view misses an important nuance: Although the First Amendment prevents Congress from abridging the freedom of speech, the Constitution is no bar to Congressional action to strengthen speech.

The distinction between abridging versus strengthening free speech is the cornerstone of Professor Minow’s argument. To illustrate the point, she recounts the history of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine, a rule formally announced by the FCC in 1949, but with roots much earlier, in the first decades of radio and television, when the scarcity of available frequencies limited the number of companies that could broadcast programming. To optimize use of the scarce signal spectrum, the FCC adopted the Fairness Doctrine, which placed significant restrictions on radio and television broadcasters’ freedom to select content: It imposed “must-carry” requirements on broadcasters to host news and other programming thought to be in the public interest, and, when discussing controversial issues of public concern, required broadcasters to present competing points of view to ensure that all sides of the issue were discussed. Despite these significant restrictions on broadcasters’ expressive activity, the Supreme Court upheld the rule against First Amendment challenge in its famous 1969 decision, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, reasoning that the scarcity of available frequencies made broadcast licensees trustees for the public and that the challenged Fairness Doctrine would enhance rather than restrict freedom of expression.

The history of the Fairness Doctrine and the Supreme Court’s Red Lion decision thus support Professor Minow’s basic point: Governmental expansion of avenues for speech on important issues is different from naked restriction of speech, even if some speech must be restricted in the process. Of course, the Fairness Doctrine was terminated in 1987 as part of the Reagan Administration’s deregulation program. And, Minow concedes, “A fair question is whether it would remain viable legally as the predicate of spectrum scarcity fades, given that content is now carried not just by broadcasting but also over cable and the internet.” Yet, even if the Fairness Doctrine itself might no longer be constitutionally sound, Minow urges Congress to take inspiration from it and consider new, alternative measures that would, as the Red Lion Court found, “enhance rather than abridge the freedoms of speech and press protected by the First Amendment.”

After introducing this key insight, Professor Minow avoids putting her weight behind any particular reform proposal. Instead, she presents a veritable smorgasbord of ideas. Social media companies might, for example, be required to pay local news sources for their stories, with the hope of reinvigorating local journalism; or consumer protection law might be leveraged to force platforms to remove fake or fraudulent online accounts; or Congress might even adopt the British model and use taxpayer funds to support newsgathering and reporting directly. In a way, what approach we should take is not Minow’s point. Her point is that traditional news journalism is in trouble and that we must resolve to do something about it, even if we don’t yet know exactly what.

In Saving the News, Professor Minow lays bare a dramatic shift that is underway in American news reporting, and she shows how reform may be possible even within the confines of the First Amendment. There is room to disagree on the proposals she offers, and her account of social media’s ills must be tempered by consideration of our own role and the importance of individual self-determination. But Professor Minow offers a compelling account of a shift we have all felt, toward sensationalistic and divisive media content. Anyone who thinks on these issues will benefit from her work.

This article was published by Law and Liberty and is reproduced with permission.

Arizona News: May 26, 2023

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

The Prickly Pear will provide current, linked articles about Arizona consistent with our Mission Statement to ‘inform, educate and advocate’. We are an Arizona based website and believe this information should be available to all of our statewide readers.


Hobbs Vetoes Parental Rights Pronoun Bill

Hobbs Vetoes Fontes Supported Bipartisan Ballot Image Bill

Attorney General Mayes Announces Investigation Into Parents Using School Choice

Mayes Called Out For Threatening To Investigate Families In ESA Program

Photo Radar Bill Sent To Governor Hobbs

Hobbs Signs HOA Accountability Bill

Why The ESA Program Will Help Improve Public Schools

Abe Hamadeh: Last Man Standing

Kari Lake’s Election Challenge Dismissed; Lake Launches Voter Registration Initiative

WATCH LIVE: Kari Lake Set to Make “BIG Announcement” During First Press Conference After Sham Court Ruling

JUST-IN: Kari Lake Announces She Will Continue Fighting Stolen Election Case “to The US SUPREME COURT” – Will Launch “The Largest, Most Extensive Ballot Chasing Operation in Our State’s History” (VIDEO)

EXCLUSIVE: TGP’s Jordan Conradson COMPLETELY DESTROYS Leftist Reporters Trashing Kari Lake Before Press Conference – Audio Exposes AZ Reporters Trashing Kari, Crude Jokes, and Bragging About Taking Money from County Officials (VIDEO)

Horne’s School Safety Recommendations Approved By State Board

Hysteria Fueled Lawsuit About Ballot Drop Box Watch Groups Is Settled

‘Like a Cancer’: CCP Requires Party Cells in All Foreign Companies in China

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

You mean companies that operate in China have to sell out their ethics to be in the country? Who knew? All the way back in 1993, the mass murdering Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was already requiring all foreign companies operating in China to have an internal CCP cell. And no, the law hasn’t changed.

The CCP has Party plants in every single company in China, and all companies in the country are answerable to the CCP. Chinese law, as accessible online, clearly states the CCP may “establish its branches in companies to carry out activities of the Chinese Communist Party.” That would be the same CCP that runs the world’s worst dictatorship and has killed some 500 million people.

Not to mention China’s “civil-military fusion,” where everything in the economic and tech spheres is accessible to the Chinese military. Foreign companies (including US companies) cannot maintain ethics and operate in China under CCP rule. It’s one or the other. Every company operating in China is complicit in CCP crimes.

A New Federal State of China (NFSC) representative said on Justin Barclay’s show:

“[Companies are] entering [the] China market for ‘getting rich’…the CCP will not give you [a] free stake, okay. They will always get something from you…so in 1993…it’s called Company Law of the PRC [People’s Republic of China]. In 1993 they are asking every single foreign company that came into China, including joint stock companies, to establish a Party cell within the company…they want every single foreign company [to have] a CCP Party cell.”

She said a small Communist cell planted in China by Russian Communist Vladimir Lenin sparked the movement that took over China within 27 years.

“It’s like a cancer, cancerous cell. They multiply and grow in your body without you realizing it. And only after 27 years they successfully subverted the previous legitimate government…[the CCP plants in companies] see everything, and they report to this [CCP] United Front…they’re a weapon.”

Here’s from the law mentioned above, in its amended 2018 version:

Article 19 The Chinese Communist Party may…establish its branches in companies to carry out activities of the Chinese Communist Party. The company shall provide necessary conditions to facilitate the activities of the Party.”

The CCP has oppressed and killed its own people for decades, and now it really is out to conquer the world. Unfortunately, foreign companies—including US companies—are helping the CCP achieve that goal.


This article was published by Pro Deo et Libertate and is reproduced with permission.

Joe Biden, Habitual Racialist Demagogue

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

The most recent liberal ABC News/Washington Post poll showed President Joe Biden’s approval rating at 36%—the lowest in history for a president at this point in his first term.

Biden’s low popularity is no mystery.

He inherited energy independence, affordable gas prices, historically low interest rates, low inflation, calm overseas, a low crime rate, and a largely closed border with legal-only immigration.

And then Biden destroyed that inheritance.

He has begged illiberal foreign governments to pump oil he refuses to drill domestically for.

He spiked inflation at the highest rate in more than 40 years.

Home interest rates have skyrocketed from less than 3% to 7%.

He nearly doubled the price of gasoline.

His hare-brained retreat from Afghanistan marked the greatest humiliation of the American military in the past half-century.

Kabul is now selling billions of dollars’ worth of abandoned American equipment to terrorists and anti-American regimes.

After that fiasco, Biden foolhardily played down a possible “minor” Russia invasion of Ukraine. He implored Russia to exempt some American institutions from its cyberattack target list.

No wonder an empowered Russian President Vladimir Putin went into Ukraine.

Biden’s family is corrupt from top to bottom.

Its influence-peddling schemes increasingly are targets of congressional investigations. Biden himself is explicitly mentioned by his son Hunter as the recipient of a 10% commission on monies the family syndicate leveraged from foreign interests.

Biden promised “unity.” Instead, he habitually smears half the country as “semi-fascists” and “ultra-MAGA” extremists.

Biden is cognitively challenged and often incoherent. And he is now losing support in the polls from African Americans, once his most loyal constituency.

In response, Biden does what he has always done for some 40 years: mouth wild, racist demagoguery.

This graduation season, Biden deliberately chose Howard University to scare its black graduates into believing the greatest threat to their aspirations is “white supremacy”—but that he, Biden, has been their protector in fighting it.

Note the existential threats Biden deliberately omits.

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are flooding over a border Biden deliberately destroyed. Millions of incoming poor will vie for limited federal and state support with Americans who are in need.

Since Biden was elected, there have been nearly 7 million illegal entries.

Some 100,000 Americans now die each year from Mexican-produced fentanyl and other opioids shipped across a wide-open border.

Biden did not mention that nearly 10,000 African Americans are slain each year, more than 90% of them killed by other African Americans.

Biden first should heal his own racism before he fabricates it in others.

He fueled his early Senate career with homages to southern Democratic segregationists, such as Sen. James O. Eastland, D-Miss. Biden even bragged that Eastland “never called me ‘boy.’” Biden gave eulogies for former Dixiecrat Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and former Klansman Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

Of school busing, a younger Sen. Biden thundered, “My children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle.”

Biden in 2008 patronized President-to-be Barack Obama in racist terms as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

In 2012, Biden condescended to a group of accomplished black professionals that the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, would “put y’all back in chains.”

As a presidential candidate in 2020, he dismissed two black journalists, respectively, with the putdowns “you ain’t black” and “junkie.”

His fabricated “Corn Pop” he-man autobiographical tales are utterly racist.

As president he has referred to two prominent people of color as “boy.” He still uses the term “Negro” to refer to blacks.

Biden never cites data to support his wild accusations that white supremacy poses the nation’s greatest threat.

The 2020 riots, the lengthiest in our history, left up to 40 people dead, destroyed $2 billion in property, led to 14,000 arrests, spanned 120 days of mass looting and arson, and saw mobs torching police precincts, federal courthouses, and a historic church.

That violence was engineered by radicals in Antifa and Black Lives Matter.

In the Jan. 6 Capitol protests, the only person confirmed to have been killed at that event was an unarmed military veteran and Trump supporter, Ashli Babbitt. She was lethally shot by a Capitol Police officer for the misdemeanor of attempting to enter through a broken window.

If “white supremacy” is our “greatest” terrorist threat, surely crime statistics would reveal such an existential peril.

Yet federal hate and interracial crime data show that so-called whites are considerably unrepresented demographically in such racially motivated violence.

Far from galvanizing the public, Biden’s monotonous racial demagoguery is turning it off.

The military suffers a vast drop in enlistments that began once Biden’s Pentagon brass, without evidence, likewise began demagoguing about supposed “white rage” in the ranks.

Only 37% of independents in a recent poll now support Biden. Some 70% of the public in other polls opposes a second Biden run.

So on spec, a panicked Biden now turns to what he has done for decades—inflammatory racial demagoguery.


This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

BOMBSHELL: Obama Admin Had No ‘Actual Evidence’ Of Collusion By Trump When It Launched Crossfire Hurricane Investigation

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Obama administration possessed no real evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump colluded with Russian government officials when it launched its investigation into the Trump campaign leading up to the 2016 election, according to a new bombshell report.

On Monday [5/15/23], Special Counsel John Durham released the findings of his years-long investigation into the origins of the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign in the months before, during, and after the 2016 presidential contest. Despite the agency’s claims that the inquiry — commonly referred to as Crossfire Hurricane — was predicated on the belief that Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russian officials leading up to the election, Durham’s report found the FBI had no evidence to warrant such an investigation.

“Indeed, based on the evidence gathered in the multiple exhaustive and costly federal investigations of these matters, including the instant investigation, neither the U.S. law enforcement nor the Intelligence Community appears to have possessed any actual evidence of collusion in their holdings at the commencement of the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” the report reads.

The baseless investigation into the Trump campaign started after Australian intelligence notified the FBI about “concerning comments” from George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy advisor for the Trump team, about the Russians purportedly having dirt on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In his report, Durham details the recklessness with which leading FBI officials, such as then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and then-Deputy Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Peter Strzok, launched Crossfire Hurricane and further revealed that the FBI did not possess evidence of Trump-Russia collusion as late as March 2017.

The FBI launched a full investigation “without (i) any significant review of its own intelligence databases, (ii) collection and examination of any relevant intelligence from other U.S. intelligence agencies, (iii) interviews of witnesses essential to understand the raw information it had received or (iv) using any of the standard analytical tools typically employed by the FBI in evaluating raw intelligence,” the report reads. “In addition, FBI records prepared by Strzok in February and March 2017 show that at the time of the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI had no information in its holdings indicating that at any time during the campaign anyone in the Trump campaign had been in contact with any Russian intelligence officials.”

Durham furthermore notes how the FBI’s launching of Crossfire Hurricane — which was “based on raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence” — also reflected “a noticeable departure from how it approached prior matters involving possible attempted foreign election interference plans aimed at the Clinton campaigns.” In one instance, “FBI Headquarters and Department officials required defensive briefings to be provided to Clinton and other officials or candidates who appeared to be targets of foreign interference,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, the FBI did not notify Trump or his team when launching inquiries into campaign officials such as Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn.

Durham’s report also highlights the baselessness of the Steele Dossier, which the FBI used in its application to acquire a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. In the months leading up to the 2016 election, Perkins Coie, a law firm acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign, hired Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Trump and his affiliates. Led by Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS acquired the help of former British spy Christopher Steele to “investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.” On July 5, several weeks before the launch of Crossfire Hurricane, Steele provided the FBI with a series of derogatory stories concerning Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. These reports are what became known as the Steele Dossier.

“As noted, it was not until mid-September that the Crossfire Hurricane investigators received several of the Steele Reports,” the Durham report reads. “Within days of their receipt, the unvetted and unverified Steele Reports were used to support probable cause in the FBI’s FISA applications targeting Page.”

Durham ultimately concluded the FBI failed to corroborate any of its key claims regarding the Dossier, writing, “Our investigation determined that the Crossfire Hurricane investigators did not and could not corroborate any of the substantive allegations contained in the Steele reporting.”

This article was published by The Federalist and is reproduced with permission.

A Warning to Those Who Seek Power

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Rochelle Walensky just left the CDC in a hurry. We’ll probably never get to know the details of her departure, but it smelled a lot like the culmination of statements that she made over the course of her time there. Some of the statements she made and positions she held didn’t quite match up with the facts that she knew at the time, and some members of Congress are beginning to notice.

I don’t believe for a second that Walensky thought up those statements all on her own, and I don’t believe that she was stupid enough not to know that they were false when she said them. Someone else (probably more like someones) convinced her to toe the line and say those things, because that’s what others in power above her wanted to happen, and that it would be really good for her career to go along. Because, you know, present a unified voice; tell a little white lie; do what’s good for the population.

It could also be that Walensky didn’t get that instruction from anyone at all. Humans are complex creatures that can pick up on all sorts of cues from other individuals and the environment. It could be that somehow she just knew what she needed to say to maintain her position of power. It might not have even included a rationalization to herself. It just felt right.

Who knows, maybe there’s another lucrative position already in the works at a large and powerful pharmaceutical company, where she can still be part of the game.

Dear Rochelle, here’s a tip in case you don’t already feel this in your bones right now:

You don’t use power; power uses you.

Who gave you the message? Was it Biden? Someone in the health administration? An operative from Davos? It looks like the one “on top” holds the power, and that it flows down from there. But let’s take a quick look at the history of people on the top.

Julius Caesar. There is no question he was the top dog in 46 BC. There is no question that he was dead in 44 BC.

You don’t use power; power uses you.

French Revolution – the people have the power! Yay! Kill those other people in power! Bye, bye cake maven. – No, wait. Robespierre has the power. Go Jacobins! You’ll surely hang on. – Sorry, says Napoleon, I’m top dog now. 600,000 troops marching to the Kremlin! – Hmm, that Russia thing didn’t go too well. What? I lost 400,000 troops? Mais oui!

You don’t use power; power uses you.

Power often lurks in the background. We do things based on cultural expectations and have a relatively unconscious awareness of what lies behind those expectations. Then suddenly everything changes, and we become all too aware of its frightening force.

Think of those mandated to get a jab that they didn’t need. Many lost their jobs or had a family member harmed. Students were forced out of classes and away from friends, and their developing personalities were anonymized with masks. They went along because they suddenly felt some power compelling their actions.

Was there an identifiable person behind these violative acts of power? Sometimes, yes: it was the Fire Chief; it was the Health Director; it was the CDC. Sometimes, no: everyone else is wearing masks, so I had better wear one too; the other kids look at me funny because I’m unvaccinated, and I can’t go to parties.

Power has captivated many historians and philosophers as they tried to describe it and understand it. Nietzsche believed that power was the primary driving force in humans. He called it the “will to power.” It is in everyone, whether their motives are good or evil. He also talked about these actions taking place around “power centers.” Unlike the “will to power,” the word “center” makes power sound like a place, or a thing of its own, separate from a human presence.

People express power to other people. Or inflict it upon them. Or submit to it. It certainly appears that power is the thing exchanged, with humans as the actors. Machiavelli wrote a book that provided guidance to rulers on how to obtain power and then how to maintain it. In his work power is the attribute that a human obtains.

However, regardless of how well rulers throughout history employed his advice, his tips always seemed to go wrong somewhere. As with the examples at the beginning of the article, maybe power can be obtained by following some rules, but maybe it has a life of its own.

What if that “will to power” that Nietzsche talks about aren’t embedded in our psyche, what if it is its own thing? What if Power is the entity in this equation, and humans are the substrate or rather the medium of exchange? What if Power is something that lives above humans, perhaps requiring humans to exist, and primarily expresses its being through humanity? What if Power uses you?

In most stories of the Bible, power is expressed as an attribute or ability of God. But there is this one I found that’s interesting: Luke 22:69. In the literal translation of the original, it’s not clear what the state of power is: “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” Note that it is the power of God that has a “right hand,” and that power might be an entity.

Michel Foucault from the last century also philosophized on the nature of power. He largely saw power as a force that is tied to the establishment of knowledge, and thus often a force for good. But here is a remarkable statement:

We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it ‘excludes’, it ‘represses’, it ‘censors’, it ‘abstracts’, it ‘masks’, it ‘conceals’. In fact, power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production (1975).

What strikes me about this statement is that power is most certainly treated as an entity performing actions. Whether it is positive or negative: “power produces.” It is not the human wielding power, it is power itself that is the agent.

Power is the entity, humans are the medium of exchange.

Then there is Prometheus. Zeus is “all-powerful,” the pinnacle of the pantheon of gods. Clearly, Zeus is the primary holder of power, and all else flows below him. But one of the Titans, Prometheus, defied Zeus, and stole fire as a gift to humans, creating for all of humankind the ability to do art, create industry, and control their environment. Zeus tortured Prometheus for his disobedience. But the all-powerful Zeus either could not or did not remove humankind’s newly gifted power. Was that Power acting on its own, wielding Zeus himself in its grip?

Here’s another interesting one from the social philosopher Noam Chomsky in Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky:

And when you look, most of the time those authority structures have no justification: they have no moral justification, they have no justification in the interests of the person lower in the hierarchy, or in the interests of other people, or the environment, or the future, or the society, or anything else – they are just there in order to preserve certain structures of power and domination, and the people at the top.

Sounds a lot like Power is its own being, self-interested, “preserving” its structure.

Over the past three years, Power has hurt or ruined the lives of millions. It seems to have taken over many of our institutions: government, health, education, banking, and the media, all to negative effect. And the whole time all the people with authority in those institutions thought they were the ones in charge.

Did Power compel Andrew Cuomo to force people with Covid into nursing homes and thus cause many deaths?

Did Power suggest that hospital administrators inflate Covid numbers to get more money from the state?

Did Power instruct County Health officials to shut down schools and isolate children from one another?

Did Power whisper to leaders of large pharmaceutical companies to hide risks and enrich themselves?

And now, once seemingly wielded by our leaders, Power has them cowering from its presence – our leaders are gaslighting, deflecting, and backpedaling, and resigning. Will Power come after them? Will some other individual or group step into its clutches?

Is Power just getting started?

Power exists in the ether of human actions; does it have a name?

When it alleviates human suffering, do we call it God – or Yahweh – or Allah – or Vishnu – or Bodhisatta?

When it causes pain and destroys lives, do we call it Satan – or Shaitan – or Shiva – or Mahakala?


This article was published by The Brownstone Institute and is reproduced with permission.

Market Volatility Compresses As Debt Ceiling Looms

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Volatility in stock, bond, currency, and gold markets continue to contract as they pause awaiting not only the next meeting of the Federal Reserve but also the resolution of the current political battle over the debt ceiling.

Depending on who is doing the talking, and what “extraordinary measures” are used by the US Treasury to shuffle money around, the US government will be close to running out of money in the next week or so.

Markets appear to act as if this threat is mostly political theatre, as none of the major markets are currently acting as if the US is really about to default on its sovereign debt.

For example, if the markets truly thought the US would not be paying interest on US treasury bonds, which is the reserve asset of the world as well as our own banking system,  Treasury bonds should be falling sharply in value, discounting that these bonds could become worthless.  Falling bond prices would translate into sharply higher interest rates, since the price of a bond and its yield, are mathematically connected at the hip. Such a collapse in price would harm everyone who owns them, which is most of the world.

Bonds, however, are only drifting gently lower right now.  However, their decline over the past year is largely responsible for our serious bank failures of late.

Likewise, the value of the dollar should be falling sharply, roiling international trade and banking as well.  That is currently not happening either.  The dollar has been drifting lower of late but recently has bounced back up a bit.  If we simply start to print money to pay all of our bills, that can hardly be expected to help the value of the dollar.

If the “reserve” of the international banking system were really about to default, then one would expect gold prices to be rising sharply.  They aren’t. Gold, of course, is the only recognized international reserve, not an obligation issued by a government, and hence, can’t default.  But of late, its price has been drifting lower, not rising in concern.   Having fallen just $4 short of an all-time high in early May, it has meandered down from about $2,060 per ounce to about $1,960 per ounce as we write.  This $100 dollar slide would seem an odd thing to do if the US were really about to default.

And stocks would hardly be comfortable with a default if that were really about to be the case but their action has been mostly sideways with contracting volatility.

Thus, it would seem the markets are sanguine about how the debt ceiling talks will end up.  The markets apparently feel that once again we will see some kind of resolution before it is too late or we will have selected shut down of some government agencies as we have seen before.  Closing the National Parks or Passport control is surely inconvenient and damaging to communities that need tourism, but such closures will not wreck the country.

The markets have had to go through this process several times before, and depending on the severity, and how “default” is handled, will dictate the extent of losses and the time necessary to come back from those losses. The last big debt ceiling crisis was in the summer of 2011.  It created several weeks of volatile action in the markets, including a decline in stocks of about 21%.  Afterwards, markets continued their advance which lasted for several more years.  However, the US government suffered its first bond rating downgrade and lost its AAA rating with Standard&Poors with a “negative outlook” going forward. 

There was another disturbance in 2013 that was milder.

There are both good and bad in the market’s reactions to these present events.  The good news seems to be that markets just don’t believe that our political leadership is that stupid and that most of this is political brinksmanship designed to extract concessions from the other side.  There are other things to worry about such as the FED interest rate policy, declining economic growth, and earnings reports softening.

The bad news comes on two fronts.  Firstly, the markets are quite unprepared if talks truly run off the rails and the US has to default in some form.  If you are unprepared,  when reality reveals itself it can lead to rapid panic. Secondly, the two arguing parties might feel greater urgency to solve the problems if the markets were putting them under pressure. The current sideways action just will not be sufficient to catch the attention of our camera-seeking political leaders.

History suggests that what damage is done will be temporary, assuming all other market factors are reasonable.

However, a true default could be much worse and more long-lasting.  Then again, getting spending constraints would be a positive for the markets and the economy.

The long-term problem is the current huge build-up of deficits is unsustainable. We cannot keep racking up deficits like this.  Spending is far outpacing both economic growth and revenues and the trend seems permanent.

Current Republican leadership knows this and also feels this time, as opposed to previous times, the debt ceiling crisis will be blamed on the Democrats. Current polling does show the public largely supports the Republican plans to trim spending. All that is being asked are quite modest cuts in spending and the return of unspent Covid relief money. They are quite willing to sign on to a debt ceiling increase if some modest common sense things are done.

The Democrats for their part are now a radical party and turmoil serves radical political ends.  Some of their most progressive members are now suggesting street violence. For most of the last few months, the Biden Administration flatly refused to even talk to the Republicans knowing full well the end date was coming soon.  Then they tried trotting out a strange 14th Amendment Theory.  The section of that amendment had to do with integrating the previous states of the Confederacy back into the Union and making it clear,  the Union would not be responsible for Confederate debts. The position that this applies to the current circumstance is absurd on its face and one only a constitutional ignoramus could make.

Other novel theories suggest money once appropriated by one Congress is binding on the debt management of another Congress.  But if acts of one Congress of one party are an unquestionable obligation of another Congress run by another party, nothing would ever change.  That is not the way the system of checks and balances works. Democrats remain convinced they can blame the “crisis” on the Republicans but their desperation indicates that Speaker McCarthy has them and the President cornered.  They seem to feel there are no problems always spending more than you take in. The bogus nostrums of Modern Monetary Theory seem to have taken up permanent residence in the Democrats’ brains.

Both the market complacency and the view that this is just another period of political brinksmanship do seem to miss the serious nature of what we are dealing with.

We really can’t go on like this as a nation.  The debt burden is now way beyond political posturing. Not that far in the future, the laws of economics will apply to the US just as it has to other countries.  We are already in the worst inflation we have suffered in 40 years, an indication we are closer to the breaking point than many think.  We are having a rolling banking panic and we are not even in recession.  If we nose into recession later this year, revenue will fall (it already is) and expenditures will rise, making the deficit widen once again.

Other great empires have been brought to their knees by financial calamity and both citizens and markets, become collateral damage to government financial mismanagement.  Who is to say we are so special as to avoid the consequences of spending forever more than we receive in revenue?

No, we need some sober leadership that gets expenditure and revenues back into balance.  However, financing this great country with such chaotic procedures is a burden on all of us and very difficult for the markets to figure out.

The great leader that unified Germany Otto von Bismark is credited with this pithy observation: “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children, and the United States of America.”

We worry about how much longer that may be true.





Arizona GOP Calls for More Aggressive Response to Border Crisis

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Arizona Republicans are asking for more aggressive action on the southern border at the state and federal level, as the end of Title 42 is raising more questions than answers.

On the state level, a group of state House Republicans, Reps. Lupe Diaz, Michael Carbone, and Michele Pena, Gail Griffin, and Tim Dunn, urged Democrat Gov. Katie Hobbs to make use of all the resources currently available to mitigate the crisis.

The State of Emergency in Arizona’s border counties that former Governor Ducey declared on April 20, 2021, is still in effect and continues as long as these conditions exist,” the lawmakers wrote. “And over $240 million remains in the Border Security Fund, which the Legislature established to prevent illegal entry into the country, solidify infrastructure, and combat other harms at the border. We call upon you to take immediate action and activate all available state resources to keep our communities safe from these dangerous and unprecedented threats.”

Hobbs held a news conference earlier this week where she criticized the Biden administration but stopped short of declaring an executive order sending National Guard troops down to the border, yet said it may be on the table.

Meanwhile, Maricopa County Supervisor Thomas Galvin wrote a letter to Biden directly, calling for “additional emergency resources” to help the county deal with humanitarian concerns.

“Your administration has procrastinated and failed to deliver a policy that streamlines due process, addresses security concerns, and preserves human dignity,” Galvin wrote.

Unfortunately, for Arizona generally, and Maricopa County specifically, the federal government is needlessly creating a humanitarian issue with very real consequences for the economy and security on our communities which are still reeling from the social impact of the pandemic,” he later added.

Maricopa County does not touch the southern border, but it is the most populated county in the state. According to Fox 10 Phoenix, some NGOs will use Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as a sendoff point to get migrants to where they hope to end up.

When it comes to resources being granted, Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls asked the president to declare a national state of emergency to have more resources brought to smaller border communities like his, The Center Square reported Thursday.

This article was published by The Center Square – Arizona and is reproduced with permission.

We Are Becoming Venezuela

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Those who regularly read my column know that The Beautiful Wife and I are experienced, world travelers. We have been to 80 countries together and love to travel to all corners of the world. One of the countries I would really like to go to is Venezuela.

At one point not too long ago, Venezuela had the best economy in Latin America and was in the top 20 economies in the world. It has the largest oil reserves in the world. In the last two decades of the 20th century, the economy started to decline. It was still a country with which many people I knew did business and visited regularly. I wanted to vacation there. I heard wonderful things about Caracas, the capital.

Then Hugo Chavez became president promising a Bolivian (socialist) revolution. He indeed provided a revolution until he died. A revolution of despair. The current leader, Nicolas Maduro, took over the country and finished destroying any semblance of civilized life. Human Rights Watch has reported there is a full-blown humanitarian crisis lacking safe water, basic nutrition, and healthcare. Whoever can get out has gotten out.

We missed our opportunity to visit Venezuela and likely will never be able to safely vacation there in our lifetimes.

The same thing is happening to major cities in the United States, and it too is self-inflicted. The elected leaders of these cities have driven the economies into the ground, driven out businesses, and created lawless environments.

I am specifically addressing San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. These are cities I have visited numerous times over the years. I walked around their downtown areas without a care for  safety and experienced all aspects of life there. No more. The elected leaders have allowed the cities to be driven into the ground. They have out-of-control homeless populations that make the entire environment unsafe and grimy.

I will no longer be driving down Lombard Street or walking around Union Square or enjoying a meal at Sears in San Francisco. I will no longer be walking over to Powell’s Books in Portland and then grabbing some lunch after cruising the book racks. I will no longer be heading over to Pike’s Place in Seattle to take in the wonderful fish market. Seattle handed over an entire section of their downtown to criminals and it has never fully recovered.

You cannot blame any of this on blacks or other minorities as they represent a minor portion of the population in these cities. No, the dismal decline of these cities is caused by the most dangerous people in America – white liberals. They have voted for hard-core Leftists to come into office with their extreme policies. They think they are doing well for others by allowing the public school systems to corrode while sending their own children to private schools. They believe criminals should not have ramifications for their crimes because the crimes were just a manifestation of their challenging past.

I will not be visiting any of these cities soon and maybe not ever again.

There is another city I am thinking of adding to the list. Just 18 months ago after numerous prior visits, we were in Chicago. We were there when possibly the worst mayor in American history was in office – Lori Lightfoot. She was so bad her constituency gave her only 17% in the election primary, thus eliminating her from the general election.

Given an opportunity to begin correcting the malaise Lightfoot created, the residents of Chicago doubled down by electing someone who could easily become worse. With a failing school system, they elected someone who received 95% of his contributions from public employee unions, largely from the teachers’ union.

Even before Brandon Johnson was installed into office, he displayed what a disaster he will become. After a mob destroyed parts of his city and threatened tourists, he made an astonishing statement regarding their criminal activity. What he should have said was he condemned the actions and that when he becomes mayor, he will put a stop to these kinds of actions.

Instead, he stated, “In no way do I condone the destructive activity we saw in the Loop and lakefront this weekend. It is and has no place in our city. However, it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities. Our city must work together to create spaces for youth to gather safely and responsibly, under adult guidance and supervision, to ensure that every part of our city remains welcome for both residents and visitors. This is one aspect of my comprehensive approach to improve public safety and make Chicago livable for everyone.”

That does not inspire confidence that I or anyone else walking his streets will be safe. While he is having social sessions, people will be beaten and robbed. His comments provided encouragement to the mob to continue their lawless actions because they will face no consequences.

Mr. Johnson won his election largely on the back of two groups voting for him — blacks and, you guessed it, the most dangerous group in America – white liberals. Funny, the area the mob attacked was where they live.

I may return to these cities once they decide to install sane leaders with sane policies. The Beautiful Wife and I have plenty of places to visit that are safer than the places mentioned above. I am thinking of Bangladesh.


This article was published by FlashReport and is reproduced with permission from the author.

Juryless Trials Are a Naked Power Grab and a Serious Threat to Liberty

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

In Scotland, government officials are piloting a program that would remove ancient procedural checks on state power to suit their preferred legal outcomes.

Since the ratification of the Magna Carta in 1215, the right of accused people to be tried by their peers has been an essential protection against government overreach in English Common Law. That function was so vital that denial of the right to trial by jury was one of the American Revolutionaries’ core grievances that led them to declare independence from Great Britain in 1776.

Fast forward to 2023 and the Scottish government will pilot trying certain serious sexual assault cases without a jury. This may be motivated by a sincere desire to get justice for victims. Still, undermining juries only consolidates the power of government ministers and senior judges.

The rationale of the proposal is simple: convictions for sexual assault are low and the Scottish government believes that juries are partly responsible. Scotland’s Justice Secretary Angela Constance has cited “the prevalence of pre-conceptions” among juries. This refers to the tendency of juries to believe common “rape myths” about the nature of consent and the relevance of victims’ previous sexual behaviour. Although we should absolutely tackle these pernicious myths, it is not the core reason for the low conviction rate. Poor policing, low reporting, and the inherent difficulty with gathering evidence to prove an accusation are far more significant obstacles.

Even if the Scottish government’s complaints were valid, it would not justify abolishing juries or diminishing their role. Trials conducted by an independent judiciary and resolved by juries are vital checks to state power. The government can investigate and charge people with crimes, take proportionate action to bring justice to victims and protect society from violence. The judiciary’s role is to safeguard peoples’ rights in the process and ensure the state does not victimize innocent people.

Trials are meant to evaluate the merits of individual cases. It would be profoundly unjust to subject people to fines, probation, imprisonment, and a life spent labelled as a sex offender just to satisfy the Scottish government’s arbitrary prosecution quota. That simply perpetuates the cycle of victimization and relegates innocent people unfortunate enough to be accused of sex crimes to being collateral damage.

On this issue in particular, the risk of collateral damage is significant. It is true that throughout history, women have been treated unequally, denied liberty, and treated as men’s property. But we have seen how a vengeful, collectivist approach to sexual justice has tangibly damaged both men and women. The “believe all women” mentality instilled by the #MeToo era saw some men accused of sexual misconduct with claims that were either false or exaggerated. A February 2020 survey found 60 percent of men are now afraid to mentor women in the workplace for fear of malicious or false accusations. Translating this mindset—that blaming innocent men can be justified on the basis that women have been victimized as a collective in the past—into our formal justice system, where people’s liberty and property are on the line, would be unconscionable.

As Johnny Depp’s lawsuit against Amber Heard showed, juries are vital to preventing the law from doing just that. Jurors can apply moral judgements to cases independent of those established in law. They can use common sense to understand when the law is improperly interpreted or used to unfairly target individuals. As the great abolitionist anarchist Lysander Spooner wrote in An Essay on the Trial by Jury:

“[Juries] must judge of the existence of the law; of the true exposition of the law; of the justice of the law; and of the admissibility and weight of all the evidence offered; otherwise the government will have everything its own way;”

As Spooner alludes, juries don’t have to convict a person for a crime, even if the facts of the case are proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Known as a “perverse verdict” or “jury nullification,” juries can acquit defendants for any reason, including if they believe the government hasn’t followed proper procedure, if they disagree with the application of the law, or, if they believe the law itself is unjust.

Nullification is a vital bulwark against communities being forced to suffer laws and applications of laws with which they disagree. Having that fundamental backstop in place ensures that the government has to abide by due process obligations more strictly and counter any suggestions that they are victimizing accused individuals for political purposes.

It is also an important vehicle that citizens can use to urge civil servants, ministers, lawmakers, and judges to rethink the laws they impose and interpret. Professional lawyers and politicians are often led astray by the bad incentives and echo chambers that tend to emerge within elite circles.

The Fugitive Slave Act (FSA) is an excellent example of this. Washington, DC was perpetually concerned with compromising with pro-slavery Congressmen, placating their desire to see slavery protected from its rightful place in the dustbin of history by special favours from the government. Wanting to avoid Civil War and secession, pragmatists gave in through measures like the FSA which bound free states to return escaped slaves to their masters or by accepting one new slave state for every free state admitted to the union. It took the common sense and moral decency of randomly selected juries to ensure that this law was not universally applied. With the Scottish government now seemingly prizing arbitrary conviction rates for sexual assault accusations, rather than the merits of individual cases, juries are key to protecting the accused from government overreach.

Of course, juries having this power is not perfect. All-white juries were instrumental in allowing lynching to go unpunished in the Jim Crow South, and in the UK, juries have acquitted environmental extremists who have broken the law by blocking highways and damaging property. However, with Scottish ministers and judges having clearly justified to themselves that ancient procedural checks on their power should be cast aside to suit their preferred legal outcomes, the role of juries is more important than ever.


This article was published by FEE,  Foundation for Economic Education and is reproduced with permission.