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James Bovard

Biden’s Wrecking Ball for Financial Privacy

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The Biden administration is seeking to compel banks to report to the IRS any bank account with more than $600 in transactions per year. This proposal is a linchpin of Biden’s American Families Plan, and will supposedly help generate almost $500 billion in federal revenue over the next decade. But previous catch-all financial reporting requirements have helped spur national disasters, complete with pervasive federal looting.
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Red Light Robberies Across America

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Crime is surging in American cities, but the official data leave out the most frequent source of highway robberies. More than 400 cities have set up red light cameras that are institutionalized racketeering that subverts public safety. Tens of thousands of American drivers have been injured and many people killed as a result of reckless revenue pursuit by local governments. 

Local governments have partnered with private companies to build, deploy, and maintain the cameras that bring bounty hunting to traffic intersections. Violations routinely hammer drivers for a hundred dollars a shot, and California skewers transgressors for up to $500. 

The evidence is clear

Red light cameras have proliferated despite overwhelming evidence of their perils. In 2004, a U.S. Department of Transportation–financed study examined hundreds of red light cameras around the nation and revealed that they were “associated with higher levels of many types and severity categories of crashes.”

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Remember When Conservatives 'Canceled' Anyone against the War on Terror? I Do.

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Life in American changed twenty years ago after the 9/11 attacks. Many Americans became enraged at anyone who did not swear allegiance to President George W. Bush’s antiterrorism crusade. Anyone who denied “they hate us for our freedoms” automatically became an enemy of freedom.

Plenty of stalwart defenders of liberty quickly found themselves banished from polite company. At the time of the 9/11 attacks, I had been bashing government policies for twenty years. Conservatives relished my battering of the Clinton administration in books such as Feeling Your Pain (St. Martin’s, 2000). But past writing provided no indemnity for subsequent sins.

Regardless, nothing happened on 9/11 to make the government more trustworthy. Two years after the 9/11 attacks, St. Martin’s Press published my Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil, attacking the war on terror across the board. I scoffed, “The Patriot Act treats every citizen like a suspected terrorist and every federal agent like a proven angel.” When the Justice Department launched a PATRIOT Act propaganda website, lifeandliberty.gov, it included an attack on my writing.
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Absolute Power Is No Covid Safety Net

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Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown champions have perennially invoked “science and data” to sanctify any mandate politicians impose. Hard facts have recently shown that neither vaccines nor face masks provide surefire protection against the virus. But no amount of evidence has yet shaken faith in the magic of absolute power.
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Kabul's Collapse and DC's Incurable Arrogance

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After the Taliban captured Kabul far faster than anyone in Washington forecast, secretary of state Tony Blinken went on Sunday morning talk shows and announced that the US mission in Afghanistan had been “successful.” Unfortunately, there will be plenty of robotic civil servants and political appointees who recite that deranged verdict in the coming years.

There is no reason to expect the twenty-year US debacle in Afghanistan to humble Washington policymakers. Korean War fiascos were swept under the rug, paving the way for fresh delusions that led to the Vietnam War. The debacles of the Vietnam War were buried long ago, spurring similar follies in the Afghan and Iraq wars in this century. John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), reported finding “a USAID lessons-learned report from 1980s on Afghan reconstruction but nobody at AID had read it!” Foreign policy makers will likely remain arrogant and myopic regardless of how many more nations they despoil.

On a winter hike almost a decade ago, I witnessed firsthand both the haughtiness of officialdom and its human cost. I arrived at Great Falls National Park in Maryland early for that Sunday morning jaunt and found a wooden rail fence to lean against as I awaited the arrival of other hikers.
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Pseudo-Omniscience Versus Freedom

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Shut up and submit” is now the favorite Covid cure of some of America’s leading progressives. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner and New York Times columnist, revealed on Tuesday that since freedom is a mirage, people have no good reason not to comply with endless government commands. Unfortunately, punitive panaceas are increasingly popular among both politicians and pundits.
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The Coming ‘January 6’ Train Wreck

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The January 6 Capitol clash may be the gift that keeps on giving to cynics everywhere. In the coming months, Americans will likely see jaw-dropping bureaucratic debacles, stunning abuses by federal prosecutors, and appalling bloodlust by angry Biden supporters. Perhaps the least likely outcome is that the coming train wreck will restore faith in American democracy. 

The Justice Department declared last week, “The investigation and prosecution of the Capitol Breach will be the largest in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence.” The feds are sorting through “237,000 digital tips, 1 million Parler videos and images comprising 40 terabytes of data scraped from the Internet — roughly equivalent to 10 million photos, 20,000 hours of video, or 50,000 filing cabinets of paper documents,” theWashington Postreported. Investigators are also sorting through “cell tower data for thousands of electronic devices that connected to the Capitol’s interior distributed antenna system,” information provided by phone companies, Google, and other data aggregation companies. The problem will be compounded because many government employees are slow readers. 

More than 500 protestors have already been charged in federal court, but their trials will likely be delayed at least until next year. Federal judge John Bates recently warned that evidence snafus could result in judges “going on the warpath.” If judges conclude that the Justice Department is unreasonably keeping January 6 defendants locked up (often in solitary confinement) too long, judicial edicts could unravel prosecutors’ long-term plans.

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No Victory Lap For Governors Who Locked Down America

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There are no fact-checkers for victory laps. Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo summarized his experience with the Covid-19 crisis: “Speaking for myself, it was a tremendous personal benefit.” Cuomo made that declaration in a speech concluding his one-year chairmanship of the National Governors Association. Because Cuomo’s spiel sought to rewrite history to exonerate politicians who ravaged Americans’ rights and liberties, it requires a rebuttal.
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Can Mass Subjugation Save American Democracy?

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“Beatings will continue until morale improves” has morphed from an old joke to the latest prescription for national salvation. “Compulsory National Service Could Unite America,” whooped a New York Times Op-ed headline last week. Prominent media outlets, think tanks, and too many professors and former generals are calling for government to commandeer a year of young Americans’ lives to forcibly restore their faith in the political system. 

Rep. John Delaney made a one-year mandatory service requirement for every 18-year-old a keystone of his Democratic presidential campaign. Last year, the congressionally-created National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service recommended reserving “mandatory service as a last resort” to force Americans to serve as politicians demand. From the Aspen Institute to the Brookings Institution, from the Washington Post to Politico, national service is being whooped up as a silver bullet for all that ails America. 

Congress last month created a new federal holiday, Juneteenth Day, spurred in part by focus on the horrors of slavery. But compulsory service advocates are rewriting the script for American history. Apparently, slavery was evil not because of the unjust subjugation but because plantation owners, not politicians, were the profiteers. If the federal government is the beneficiary of forced labor, any quibbles about the 13th Amendment’s prohibition of involuntary servitude are moot.
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The Deep State Defeat of Donald Trump

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“The Trump–Deep State clash is a showdown between a presidency that is far too powerful versus federal agencies that have become fiefdoms with immunity for almost any and all abuses,” I wrote in an FFF article a year ago. Since then, Donald Trump lost the 2020 election by fewer than 50,000 votes in a handful of swing states that determined the Electoral College result. There were numerous issues that could drive that relatively small number of votes. But machinations by the Deep State probably cost Trump far more votes than it took to seal his loss.

“The Deep State” commonly refers to officials who secretly wield power permanently in Washington, often in federal agencies with vast sway and little accountability. During Trump’s first impeachment, the establishment media exalted the Deep State. New York Times columnist James Stewart assured readers that the secretive agencies “work for the American people,” New York Times editorial writer Michelle Cottle hailed the Deep State as “a collection of patriotic public servants,” and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson captured the Beltway’s verdict: “God bless the Deep State!”

The first three years of Trump’s presidency were haunted by constant accusations that he had colluded with Russians to win the 2016 election. The FBI launched its investigation on the basis of ludicrous allegations from a dossier financed by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. FBI officials deceived the FISA Court to authorize surveilling the Trump campaign. A FISA warrant is the nuclear bomb of searches, authorizing the FBI “to conduct simultaneous telephone, microphone, cell phone, e-mail and computer surveillance of the US person target’s home, workplace and vehicles,” as well as “physical searches of the target’s residence, office, vehicles, computer, safe deposit box and US mails,” as a FISA court decision noted. The FISA court is extremely deferential, approving 99 percent of all search warrant requests.
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