07/31/20

America’s “Days of Rage”: The Extensive Left-Wing Bombings & Domestic Terrorism of the 1970s

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

America’s “Days of Rage”: The Extensive Left-Wing Bombings & Domestic Terrorism of the 1970sAs the summer of 2020 dawned, left-wing radical groups began rioting and taking over parts of America’s cities. While this specific form of left-wing violence is new, left-wing violence itself is far from new in the United States. Indeed, one of the most hidden and concealed parts of recent American history is the extensive left-wing violence that began in the late 1960s and continued into the 1980s.

At first, one might think that these were isolated incidents of small-scale “protest” or even minor violence. However, upon even a brief examination, we find out that the outpouring of leftist violence over this time period was anything but minor. The most likely explanation for why you have never heard of this until now is that the events of these years have been consciously buried by those who would prefer that you not know about them.

As the left once again ratchets up both its rhetoric and its physical violence, it’s time to re-explore this period of American history. What started as a non-violent student movement quickly escalated into a campaign of terrorism against the American people. And while the similarities may not be terribly striking yet, astute readers of this article will quickly see the world in which we live more and more closely resembling the Days of Rage.

The Days of Rage

The Days of Rage were in fact a short and discrete period of time – three days of demonstrations that took place on October 8 through 11, 1969. Throughout this article, we will discuss events that took place both before and after the Days of Rage but consider this period a sort of “coming out” party for the Weathermen, also known as the Weather Underground.

The Weathermen started out as a faction within Students for a Democratic Society. Without getting too much into the weeds, much of what happens during this period of leftist terrorism in the United States has its genesis in a faction fight between the Weathermen, who controlled the national SDS organization, and the rest of their faction (known as the Revolutionary Youth Movement II or RYM II), who was in opposition to the more classically Maoist Worker Student Alliance.

Tensions ran high because the stakes were high – nothing less than total control of the largest student radical organization in America and all of the spoils that came along with that. Many within the Weathermen faction of RYM II believed that they were fighting literal fascism coming to America in the form of President Richard Nixon.

Sound familiar yet? It’s about to sound a lot more so.

On October 6, 1969, a statue memorializing a police officer killed during the 1886 Haymarket riots was blown up. No one ever figured out who committed this act of iconoclasm, but the tangible effect of the act of political terrorism was the final isolation of the Weather Underground from the rest of the SDS.

The Weathermen then shifted their activity to the Days of Rage, a protest rally with the slogans “Bring The War Home!” Many wielded lead pipes and were clad in football helmets, ready for a confrontation with the police.

Turnout was disappointing. The Weathermen expected a massive turnout, but only got about 800, who stared down 2,000 Chicago police likely itching for another fight after the 1968 Democratic Convention. By the first night, about 500 had deserted the protest, with about half of the remaining 300 being Weathermen from around the country.

Abbie Hoffman and John Froines, two members of the Chicago Seven, showed up but declined to speak and left. The remaining hardcore of Weathermen and their supporters shifted the goalposts to simply fighting the police as constituting victory.

At 10:25 p.m., Jeff Jones, one of the leaders of the Weathermen, gave the signal and chaos erupted. The crowd moved through the city, smashing windows of ordinary cars and middle-class homes throughout Chicago, as well as small businesses such as barbershops.

The next day, October 9, a “Women’s Militia” comprised of about 70 female Weathermen planned to attack a draft board office, but were prevented from doing so by the Chicago Police Department. The governor called up 2,500 National Guard members to protect Chicago, and protests for later in the day were canceled. The Black Panther Party’s local leadership attempted to distance themselves from the Weathermen, describing the group as “anarchistic, opportunistic, adventuristic, and Custeristic.”

The next day was the last day of the Days of Rage proper, centered around a march of 2,000 through a Spanish-speaking area of Chicago. The next day, October 11, the Weathermen attempted to reignite the protests but were quickly sealed off by Chicago’s finest. Approximately half of the crowd were arrested in 15 minutes.

It was after the events of the Days of Rage that the Weathermen became the Weather Underground and began moving underground as the name would imply. At a meeting known as the Flint War Council, which was attended by Barack Obama advisor William Ayers, taking place between December 27 and 31, 1969, the Weathermen dissolved their version of SDS, changed their name to the Weather Underground and declared that they would engage in guerilla warfare against the United States government.

Before continuing with the laundry list of terrorist actions carried out by the Weather Underground, it is worth briefly explaining their ideology. The Weather Underground was not a classically Marxist nor, strictly speaking, a Maoist group. Their cues came more from the American New Left. Thus, much like the radicals creating chaos in American cities in the 2020s, they were far more focused on opposition to the American state, “white privilege” and “white supremacy” than they were in creating bonds across the working class.

In this regard, they differed both from the Maoism of the Progressive Labor Party (made up of former members of the Communist Party, USA, who supported Mao against Kruschev and thus had very real ties to the American labor movement) and the so-called “New Communist Movement” (comprised of younger student activists sympathetic toward Maoism and Third Worldism, but without organic ties to the existing Communist left and the labor movement). They did not, as some other groups in both Maoism proper and the New Communist Movement did, seek either ties with the American working class (which they largely considered “bought off by imperialism”) or the official sanction of Beijing (a long-term goal of both Maoists and New Communists).

There are three important takeaways from all of this inside baseball:

  • The Weather Underground considered the American government to be fascist.
  • They believed that American military and civil government institutions should be treated in an identical manner to how the Viet Cong would treat the American military.
  • The American working class, in particular the white American working class, was considered apathetic and useless at best, but generally more considered an active opponent of revolution – thoroughly reactionary and thus, the enemy.

The Weathermen After the Days of Rage

In the first year after the Flint War Council, the Weather Underground engaged in a series of over a dozen bombings or attempted bombings throughout the United States. While supporters of the Weather Underground generally attempt to downplay the significance of the bombings, the group attacked courthouses, the New York Police Headquarters, the Pentagon and the headquarters of the National Guard. Additionally, police found multiple bomb factories designed to aid the guerilla efforts of the group. While 1970 was a highwater year for the group, there were other years of increased activity and the Weather Underground did not disband until 1977.

There were dozens of terrorist attacks carried out in the years between 1970 and 1977. It would be impossible to talk about them all in detail without writing an entire book on the subject. However, some of them are worth pulling out from the pack to discuss individually:

  • New York City Arson Attacks: The home of New York Supreme Court Justice John M. Murtagh was attacked with Molotov cocktails. Judge Murtagh was the presiding judge of pretrial hearings for 21 Black Panthers accused of planning a bombing campaign against the city. There were additional attacks against Columbia University’s International Law Library, Army and Navy recruiting booths, and a parked police car in the city.
  • Timothy Leary Jailbreak: Acting as hired mercenaries for The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a psychedelic drug distribution enterprise, the Weather Underground broke Timothy Leary out of jail for $20,000.
  • The United States Capitol Bombing: On March 1, 1971, the Weather Underground detonated a bomb at the United States Capitol.
  • Pentagon Bombing: On March 19, 1972, the Weather Underground blew up the women’s bathroom of the Air Force wing of the Pentagon in commemoration of Ho Chi Minh’s birthday and in retaliation for the bombing of Hanoi.

In October 1973, the federal government dropped most of the charges against the Weather Underground because new restrictions on electronic surveillance (without a court order handed down from the Supreme Court) meant that the charges likely would not stick. A more complete – and voluminous – list of Weather Underground terrorist attacks can be found here.

Black Liberation Army

The Black Liberation Army was formed in 1970, by members of the Black Panther Party who operated as members of both groups concurrently. Between 1970 and 1976, the group was involved in over 70 acts of violence, including the murders of 13 police officers. Some of their attacks included:

May 19th Communist Organization

The May 19th Communist Organization was a reorganized version of the Weather Underground that emerged after the latter began to fall apart. It included members of the Black Liberation Army, the Black Panthers and the Republic of New Afrika, as well as the Weather Underground.

The M19CO was more classically Marxist-Leninist, but no less eager to engage in terrorism. They broke Assata Shakur, convicted of the murder of a state trooper, out of prison, and spirited her to Cuba. They were also involved in the robbery of a Brinks truck in 1981, along with the Black Liberation Army, as well as several bombings, including those of the National War College, the United States Senate, the Washington Navy Yard Computer Center, the South African consulate and the Policemen’s Benevolent Association.

Symbionese Liberation Army

Most people know of the Symbionese Liberation Army, if at all, as the group who kidnapped and brainwashed Patty Hearst. Beyond this, they are an excellent example of how a small, but committed cadre of left-wing activists can wreak havoc far and beyond their numbers, which never exceeded 22.

Their first major action was the assassination of Oakland, CA superintendent of schools Marcus Foster and badly wounding his deputy Robert Blackburn. The pair were attacked with cyanide-packed hollow point rounds as they left a school committee meeting. Foster, the first black superintendent of schools in Oakland, was assassinated because the SLA believed he was going to introduce identity cards in the school system, which they considered “fascist” and which he, in fact, opposed.

Their most famous action was the kidnapping of Hearst publishing heiress Patty Hearst in 1974. She was held by the group for 19 months before she was apprehended by authorities. At first, the SLA demanded the release of Foster’s assassins, but when this proved impossible, they demanded the Hearst family distribute $70 worth of food to every needy person in California. The Hearst family took out a loan to do so, which would have cost $400 million, but the operation descended into chaos and the SLA refused to free her. The group sometimes restricted Hearst to a dark closet for weeks at a time. She was raped both by leader Donald DeFreeze (“Cinque”) and Willie Wolfe (“Kahjoh”).

When recovered, Hearst had an IQ of 112, as compared to 130 before her abduction. She chain-smoked, had a flattened affect, and had trouble remembering significant parts of her pre-SLA life. She weighed 87 pounds when apprehended.

The group committed a number of bank robberies both before and after Hearst’s kidnapping.

The Lost History of American Leftist Terrorism

Most Americans have never heard of these acts of terrorism from leftist groups that were so numerous throughout the 1970s. But this is a prime example of “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The urban unrest, which has rocked America in the early 2020s, is nothing new. The 1960s saw both race riots and left-wing terrorist groups looking to exploit animosity between racial groups in America.

The question is what are we going to do about it? The answer so far from our elected officials is “not much.” If leftist terrorist cells were willing to go this far when they had active opposition from the government and corporate figures alike, what are they going to do when confronted with apathy or encouragement from elected officials and the business sector?

The answer remains to be seen, but will certainly be some variant of “nothing good.”

07/15/20

Constitutional Republic vs. Pure Democracy: How the U.S. Election Process Has Changed

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

Constitutional Republic vs. Pure Democracy: How the U.S. Election Process Has Changed“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Conservatives are generally quick to point out that America is a republic, not a democracy. But what really is the difference, and are they even right?

Voting in America has changed considerably since the days of our founding. Back then, the government didn’t even print official ballots. Instead, you got ballots from the candidate who wanted your support. Sometimes voting took place in public, so everyone knew who you voted for. And, of course, the franchise was largely restricted to white, male property owners.

Now, anyone who turns 18 can vote. And the Democratic Party wants to increase ballot access by automatically registering anyone who gets a driver’s license. Democrats even pushed for mail-in ballots for the 2020 election to make voting even easier – and more open to voter fraud. But is any of this a good thing?

Indeed, it is worth considering the transformation of the United States from a Constitutional Republic, ruled by law with the input of the people, to a total democracy, where the will of the people dominates all other discussions.

A Brief History of the Franchise in America

Constitutional Republic vs. Pure Democracy: How the U.S. Election Process Has ChangedOpen up your pocket Constitution and find the part where it says who can vote and who can’t. You’ll come up short. That’s because the Constitution delegates this right to the states. And while there are some amendments that, for example, say states can’t restrict the franchise on the basis of race, gender, or being over the age of 18, otherwise there is broad leeway given in terms of who can vote and who can’t.

Before the United States existed, people were still voting and there were oftentimes even more restrictions in place. Property qualifications were most common, but there was often also a religious test involved. For example, Plymouth Colony required that voters be “orthodox in the fundamentals of religion,” which would have likely excluded even Catholics from voting. Indeed, Catholics, Quakers, and Baptists were frequently forbidden from voting in early colonial elections. (Jews were forbidden from state office in Maryland until 1828, because of a state law requiring affirmation of belief in an afterlife.)

One of the first laws drafted by the new nation was a process for people to become citizens and thus be able to vote in places where citizenship was a requirement to do so – and indeed, citizenship was not a requirement in many states or colonies in the early days of America. While only “natural born” citizens can become president, naturalized citizens enjoy the full benefits of the franchise. There is still much debate as to what qualifies as a “natural born” citizen, and it’s worth noting that several recent major party presidential candidates were not born in the United States – most recently Tulsi Gabbard (who was born in American Samoa) and Ted Cruz (who was born in Canada). The Republican nominee in 2008, John McCain, was born in the Panama Canal Zone. The last of these was the most problematic, as Downes v. Bidwell ruled that unincorporated territories were explicitly not the United States.

While it is easy to ascribe this to petty religious bigotry, the reason is actually somewhat more profound: The colonists and the colonial governments that they formed considered it important to only allow the franchise to people who shared their values. Thus, those with heterodox religious beliefs were not allowed to vote on the grounds that doing so would undermine both the values and the liberty of the colony.

Similarly, property holders were meant to be the main voters for the simple reason of having skin in the game. The early colonists did not want, for example, the merchant class to have an outsized say in politics because they were not tied to the land and thus not as subject to bad decisions. A shopkeeper or importer can simply sell their stock and move on to the next colony. A freeholder, working the land with his family, has far less flexibility and, the theory goes anyway, would be making more long-term decisions about what is best for the polity.

What this meant, also, is that, in places like New Jersey, women were allowed to vote until 1807, provided that they could meet the property requirement. What changed in the early 19th century, under the expansion of the franchise under Jacksonian Democracy, was that race and gender were prized more than property rights. But free blacks still had the right to vote in some Northern states until 1838.

This too was not an arbitrary distinction. Men who had been veterans of the War of 1812, or at the very least, defended their community against Indian raids, believed that they were entitled to the franchise on the basis of that service. By 1856, free white men were allowed to vote without meeting any property requirements, but five of the states still kept tax requirements (frequently a poll tax) in place. Again, this makes sense: The force of government is largely about the spending of taxes and the use of the military.

By 1856, all property requirements had been lifted, but tax requirements remained in place in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, until the 20th century. Rhode Island had what was basically a brief, low-level civil war over the question of property requirements known as the Dorr War. Indeed, anytime that post-Civil War disenfranchisement is discussed, it must include a discussion of the disenfranchisement of poor whites as well. The Battle of Athens is a fascinating tale of World War II veterans returning from battle and refusing to be shafted at the ballot box anymore.

Of the 15 Constitutional Amendments passed since the Civil War, four involve the franchise. The 15th Amendment bars states from restricting the franchise on the basis of race, the 19th from restrictions on the basis of gender, the 24th bars any tax requirements, and the 26th bars any age restrictions against those over the age of 18. Another Amendment, the 17th, allows for the direct election of senators, rather than having them elected by the respective state legislature – another expansion of pure democracy in America, though not an expansion of suffrage per se.

The previous method of electing senators, having them appointed by the respective state legislatures, was not an oversight on the part of the Founders. Rather, this was to give a voice to the state governments in the federal government. This was seen as an important safeguard against the overreach of federal power. Among other things, the Senate was a check on a power-hungry federal government seeking to put its tentacles into anything it could. It was a form of distributed power that was yet another attempt by the Founders to prevent consolidation and centralization of government.

It’s worth noting that Western states, starting with Wyoming in 1869, were granting women the right to vote, largely as an enticement to get them to move to the region, which was seriously devoid of women.

The concept of “one man, one vote” is the cornerstone of a more pure democracy. There were three decisions of the Earl Warren Supreme Court that definitively transformed the landscape of America into a democracy:

  • Baker v. Carr found that federal courts had jurisdiction over state redistricting efforts.
  • Wesberry v. Sanders found that U.S. House of Representatives districts – whose borders are determined by state governments – must be roughly equal in population.
  • Reynolds v. Sims found that state legislative districts must be roughly equal in population, regardless of the chamber. This effectively means that states are not allowed to have institutions like the Senate – for example, a state government cannot give each county two seats in the state legislature if the counties do not have roughly the same population size.

Residency requirements are mostly illegal in the United States, with one-year requirements struck down in Dunn v. BlumsteinThe longest residency requirement that states are allowed to have now is 50 days.

What’s So Wrong With Democracy?

Constitutional Republic vs. Pure Democracy: How the U.S. Election Process Has ChangedAll of this raises the question of what is wrong with democracy, as opposed to a Constitutional Republic? It’s a cliche that democracy is the right of 51 percent of the population to take away the toothbrushes of the other 49. The Constitution provides protection against the tyranny of the majority and one of those protections is against pure democracy.

Indeed, the Senate and Electoral College, two of the last vestiges of the anti-democratic mood that penetrated the country during Revolutionary times, provide protections to rural states to this day. Without either of these or with a Senate converted into a proportional representation body, as some have suggested, rural states are effectively political serfs for the larger urban centers.

The counter-argument presented to this is that “land doesn’t vote,” which is fair enough, but again: America was not conceived as a pure democracy where everyone had an equal say in everything. There are many layers to the onion, many tiers that prevent one group of the population from having too much say over the others. The Electoral College and the Senate allow rural states to have a voice in how the country is run, rather than being totally ruled over by people in urban centers who don’t own guns, can’t grow food, and have never met their neighbors.

It’s not a coincidence that Electoral College abolition is a particular ax ground by the left. The abolition of the Electoral College would allow for sweeping changes in American public policy championed by those currently on the leftward edge of the political spectrum. Do you want to live in a country where, for example, the voters of smaller states like Nevada, New Hampshire, and Montana are drowned out by a handful of cities on the coasts? What of medium-sized states with a number of post-industrial cities with their own concerns, just as valid as those of rural America, but entirely separate from the centers of financial, cultural, and academic power?

There’s also the small matter of the role that the media plays in shaping public opinion, as well as the role that public works projects and other government spending play in essentially buying votes. Ostensibly “undemocratic” institutions act as brakes on the manipulation of public opinion. Indeed, the Senate was specifically designed as a deliberative body that would “cool the passions” of the masses represented in the lower house, the House of Representatives.

The Primary System as a Laboratory of Democracy

The primary process for nominating presidential candidates represents an excellent example of how pure democracy has produced poorer results than a more managed and directed one.

Most Americans, particularly younger ones, don’t know that prior to the 1970s, the primary contests didn’t mean much. Rather, it was the state party conventions that held greater weight and these were largely managed by party bosses rather than directly influenced by voters. It’s not that this system of backroom wheeling and dealing never produced a total dud or stifled genuine needs for reform – of course, it did. However, looking at the roster of candidates produced by this process (i.e., two Roosevelts, a Coolidge, an Eisenhower, and a Kennedy), it’s hard to argue with the results.

What was entirely lacking was the current primary process that we have in the United States, which still boasts a very low overall turnout and lasts from approximately the fourth quarter of the year before the election sometimes all the way up until the convention. All told, the Democratic Primary cycle of 2020 had 12 debates planned, with 11 completed and the 12th not happening simply because Joe Biden said he wasn’t going to show up.

The primaries are dominated by highly motivated and often highly ideological voters. This means that a number of highly polarizing figures have made it through the modern primary process, including Barry Goldwater (1964, so a little early) and George McGovern, but also a ton of people who the party in question loved but Americans just plain didn’t like (examples of this being Walter MondaleMichael Dukakis, and Mitt Romney). This is because party bosses were much more concerned about someone who could win – and all the patronage that flowed from that – rather than someone who shared their ideological picadillo.

President Eisenhower is perhaps the gold standard of a president anointed by party bosses. Senator Robert Taft, the leading light of the ideologically conservative faction of the party, lost to the choice of the party bosses, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. While historical counterfactuals are hard to tease out, there’s little reason to believe that Senator Taft could have won a general election against President Truman or eventual nominee Senator Adlai Stevenson. This is because, while there was a big thirst to roll back the whole of the New Deal among the hardcore Republican base, there was virtually no taste for it in the American mainstream, which either liked the programs or had learned to live with them. Indeed, it is largely believed that the delegates themselves might have preferred Taft to Eisenhower – but they preferred Eisenhower to losing.

It’s worth noting that in the last two Democratic primaries, party bosses have leaned heavily on the scale against insurgent candidate Bernie Sanders in favor of, respectively, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. In contrast, Donald Trump was able to coast to the nomination in 2016 without any significant organized chicanery on the part of the party bosses.

But it’s not just political parties who lose when American presidential candidates are the result of a process catering to a very small niche of the electorate. America loses also because we are incapable of having substantive, issue-driven debates that address real problems of the American people. Instead, we end up focusing much more on the personalities and cultural differences that divide the two parties – to the detriment of the entire nation.

Election Fraud in the United States

Constitutional Republic vs. Pure Democracy: How the U.S. Election Process Has ChangedThere is a dispute as to whether or not there is widespread election fraud in the United States. However, there are three presidential elections that merit a brief discussion in our exploration of the franchise in America.

The 1876 Election

The election of 1876 was so controversial and potentially fraud-ridden that it was the subject of a Congressional Electoral Commission in response to a major Constitutional crisis. There were 20 electoral votes outstanding, with the Democratic candidate one shy of winning, with the 20 outstanding electoral votes all coming from states with potentially massive voter fraud. The Commission was convened by the Democratic House and the Republican Senate, with five members from each body and five from the Supreme Court of the United States.

One of the tricks in question is actually an exploit of pure democracy: In those days, there were no official ballots. Ballots or “tickets” were generally printed up by political parties or their partisans and distributed to the voters. Southern Democrats used ballots with Abraham Lincoln on them in an attempt to fool illiterate voters into voting for their slate.

“Tilden or Blood!” was a slogan at the time and Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden’s supporters declared that they had 100,000 men ready to march on the capital and install him as president if need be. A party-line vote of the Electoral Commission gave all the votes to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, making him president. However, as a concession, the South got the end of Reconstruction and the withdrawal of all remaining federal troops.

Democrats remained unsatisfied, with the House of Representatives going as far as to pass a non-binding resolution declaring Tilden the winner. The Electoral Count Act of 1887 made the state legislature the definitive arbiter of who counted as an elector, which was the subject of Bush v. Gore, another controversial election over 100 years later.

The 1960 Election

The 1960 election was disputed as well, but not formally and officially like in 1876. The claim is this: That the Democratic Party used friendly city machines in Dallas and Illinois to win states for John F. Kennedy that he otherwise would not have won – and that would have delivered the presidency to Republican Richard Nixon.

This is not a marginal theory. Senators such as Everett Dirksen and Barry Goldwater have stated that they believe there was fraud in the election. All told, Republicans in 11 states sought to have the vote overturned, including in Illinois and Texas. A special prosecutor charged 650 people with voter fraud, but there were no convictions.

It is unknown to what degree Nixon felt he had been cheated, but he never seriously pursued it, believing it would divide the nation and tarnish the office of the presidency.

The 2000 Election

Finally, there is the 2000 election, where chicanery is alleged to have taken place not at the ballot box, but at the Supreme Court. It was the Supreme Court who stopped the recount under the Equal Protection Clause because they did not approve of how the recount was being carried out. Further, a new standard could not be agreed upon because of the time frame – electors had to be selected by December 12.

This allowed a previous vote count certified by Secretary of State Katherine Harris (a Republican and Bush family ally) to stand.

Here the question was not about whether or not someone was ballot-box stuffing. No one has seriously or credibly proposed this. What was in question is how the votes were counted. This calls to mind an apocryphal quote often attributed to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin:

“The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”

Several have written that if a statewide recount were done, rather than a county-based one, that it was Vice President Al Gore who would have won. But the question here is what was the best way to count the votes. And unsurprisingly, partisans of both parties prefer the method resulting in their candidate winning.

Beyond the Theory: Why Pure Democracy Is Bad In Its Execution

Once the notion of a universal franchise enters the public vernacular, there is then no limit on who should be included. Andrew Yang became the first major-party presidential candidate to endorse lowering the voting age to 16, but others have endorsed removing age requirements for voting entirely. Indeed, there is an entire current of thought that says that citizenship shouldn’t be a requirement (it isn’t in some municipal elections) or even that the entire world should be allowed a say in who becomes the President of the United States.

While these might all sound like ridiculous proposals – and we agree that they are – they are the thin edge of the wedge, the tip of the spear that will eventually introduce this kind of discourse into the political mainstream and perhaps much sooner than anyone thinks. If the only criteria for who gets to vote is that you are “affected by government policy” or some such and thus entitled to a say, why not let the entire populations of France and Bangladesh and China have a vote? There is a logic to universal suffrage that does not end with America’s adult population or even at its borders.

Consider the fight against voter ID laws in the United States. When one accepts that voting is a universal right, it makes perfect sense that having or not having an ID shouldn’t be an impediment to exercising that right. A lack of voter ID laws has been tied to voter fraud. But perhaps more disturbing is the growing practice of ballot harvesting.

Ballot Harvesting

Constitutional Republic vs. Pure Democracy: How the U.S. Election Process Has ChangedThe Democratic Party likes ballot harvesting so much that they tried to insert it into the stimulus and relief bill targeted at people suffering from the effects of the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak of 2020. Put simply, this is when paper ballots are collected by intermediaries between the state and the voter, then delivered en masse. If this sounds like it’s a ripe place for voter fraud to happen, that’s because it is. Ballot harvesting played a role in the do-over of the 2019 North Carolina election, where Democrats were, perhaps for the first time ever, deeply concerned with the specter of voter fraud.

Orange County, California, was home to a whopping quarter million ballots delivered on Election Day alone. In practice, ballot harvesters go around collecting ballots for people who vote for the candidate they want to win. In the case of North Carolina, there were allegations that ballots had been discarded because people voted for the “wrong” candidate.

In the wake of the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak, there has been a push – mostly from Democrats – to offer mail-in ballots. These are different from absentee ballots, which are sent out to specific voters on a by-request basis. Compare this with the push for mass mail-in voting: This is just printing up a ton of ballots, sending them out, and letting everyone mail them in. There are few, if any, protections in place for preventing people from voting twice, preventing non-registered voters from voting, or preventing illegal aliens from voting. For every person who votes that shouldn’t, a legal voter has their vote canceled out or nullified.

There’s not much of a way to verify and track this process to ensure that everyone who votes is having their vote counted. But again, it is very much in keeping with the logic of “one man, one vote.” Those who espouse the ideology of a pure democracy are always looking for ways to make it easier for people to vote.

Perhaps, not coincidentally, making it easier for people to vote also opens up the door to electoral fraud.

And this is really the crux of the matter when it comes down to pure democracy: The transition to a purer democracy has coincided with greater influence among unofficial kingmakers who control the process while also consolidating greater power in Washington, D.C. In practice, this has meant favoring a bureaucratic elite who effectively act as unelected legislators. Most of the regulations put in place by the alphabet soup of federal agencies aren’t there by statute but are in fact part of powers delegated to them by the legislature who have abdicated their legislative authority.

What’s more, these unofficial kingmakers are often shadowy figures whose names (to say nothing of their intentions) are mostly unknown. These are not the traditional party bosses who were, in a sense, beholden to their people in the form of having to provide patronage and pork and other tangible results. Rather the new kingmakers of our pure democracy are the mass media, party activists, and others with no skin in the game and little in the way of public accountability. Their angle is one entirely of self-interest and not to the broader body politic, to say nothing of future generations.

07/6/20

Trump Right to Honor Harriet Tubman, a Black Gun-Toting Republican Who Freed Democrats’ Slaves

By: Daniel John Sobieski

President Trump concluded his Friday night Mount Rushmore speech by announcing the signing of an executive order creating a “National Garden of American Heroes” in which the statues of those anarchists would consign to the ash heap of history would reside to remind future generations of how we became who and what we are, to remind us of the struggle against tyranny and injustice.

Trump righteously stood before the visages of the likes of Thomas Jefferson, the maligned slave-owner who helped create a nation and a process that would end slavery. He stood before the face of Abraham Lincoln, the first president of the Republican Party, the abolitionist party formed to end the Democrats’ claimed ownership of their fellow human beings. Jefferson wrote that all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Lincoln, after the Battle of Gettysburg in a Civil War that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of so-called white-privileged Americans, spoke of a new birth of freedom and a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, that he would not allow to perish from the earth.

Trump, who some say may one day belong on Mt. Rushmore instead of just standing in front of it or flying over it, won’t allow it either, nor will we allow the cancel culture to erase the history of our continuous and ongoing struggle towards a more perfect union. So he announced the creation of the National Garden of American Heroes. The executive order reads: “The National Garden should be composed of statues, including statues of John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Daniel Boone, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Billy Graham, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Douglas MacArthur, Dolley Madison, James Madison, Christa McAuliffe, Audie Murphy, George S. Patton, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Betsy Ross, Antonin Scalia, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, George Washington, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.”

Trump was especially right in selecting Harriet Tubman, whose life story exposes the lie that America is an irredeemably racist country enslaved by racist Republicans.  History, someone once said, is a lie agreed upon, and nowhere is that more self-evident than in accounts of America’s racial history as told by Democrats. Republicans are the party of racism and slavery when the historical record shows just the opposite to be true.

As black economist Thomas Sowell notes, Democrats value black votes but not black voters:

Democrats need black voters to be fearful, angry, resentful, and paranoid. Black votes matter. If Republicans could get 20 percent of black votes, the Democrats would be ruined.

That is what Democrats are terrified of. That can only happen if blacks are denied the truth about their past, present, and future. It is Democrats who owned the slaves, founded the KKK, and wrote the Jim Crow laws. It is Democrats who stood in the schoolhouse door and still do, opposing school choice. It is Democrats who turned on the fire hoses and unleashed the dogs. It was Democrats who blocked the bridge in Selma. A higher percentage of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act than Democrats. Trump and a free market economy is no mirage but a portent of things to come that has the Democratic Party running scared.

The Democrats’ historical amnesia omits the fact that it was Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia and former “Grand Kleagle” with the Ku Klux Klan, who holds the distinction of being the only Senator to have opposed the only two black nominees to the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and led a 52-day filibuster against this legislation.

Sen. Al Gore, the father of the former vice president, voted against the act, as did Sen. J. William Fulbright, to whom Bill Clinton dedicated a memorial, current senior Senator from South Carolina Ernest Hollings, Sen. Richard Russell and, of course, Sen. Strom Thurmond, who was a Democrat at that time. Only six GOP Senators voted against the act, compared with 21 Democrats. The party of Abraham Lincoln and Jeff Sessions beat back the fire hoses and dogs of the party of Robert Byrd, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris.

“Harriet,”  just released in theaters, tells the story of Harriet Tubman, an African-American slave who frees herself and then returns south to retrieve 70 others and bring them to freedom. Oh, yeah, Harriet Tubman was a gun-toting Republican and the people she liberated these slaves from were Democrats.

She was a heroine of the Underground Railroad and plans were being made under President Obama to place Tubman’s image on a new twenty-dollar bill, replacing the current version depicting former slave-owner and President Andrew Jackson. Plans stalled, however, perhaps when someone noticed that Harriet Tubman was a gun-toting Republican who believed that firearms were the best guarantor of freedom and equality ever invented.

Recently, Congressman John Katko, R-New York, has revived the idea of replacing President Andrew Jackson, one of those old white guys, on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman, an African-American woman who was a heroine in the battle against slavery:

Back in 2016, President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced the proposal to swap former President Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman.

Tubman would be the first African-American woman to appear on U.S. currency and the first woman in 100 years. The idea was to honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

The plan has since stalled. President Donald Trump is a fan of Andrew Jackson and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said as far as he’s concerned, Jackson will remain on the $20 bill, but some in Congress think otherwise.

“We don’t have a woman of color, we don’t have any person of color on any U.S. currency,” said Congressman John Katko, R-New York….

Lisa Page, the interim Director of Africana Studies at George Washington University, says the move is not without controversy.

“I think Americans are still ashamed of the legacy of slavery and will continue to be ashamed of slavery,” Page said.

If the bill were to become a reality, according to Page, it would be a fitting tribute to a trailblazer for freedom and a patriotic American heroine.

“She was called Moses for all of her work in abolition,” Page added

Ironically, Charlton Heston, who played Moses on the big screen, was an NRA member famous for holding a musket over his head with the pledge, “From my cold dead, hands.” Gun rights are a keystone of our freedoms and the Founding Fathers knew we needed a Second Amendment to protect the other nine, Harriet Tubman knew that in the battle to end slavery, gun-rights for African Americans would be a key.

This move to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, replacing President Andrew Jackson, replacing the slave-owning founder of the Democratic Party with a gun-toting black Republican may spark a political debate worth having and unearth historical truths worth learning.

Biographer Kate Clifford Larson notes that Harriet Tubman was no stranger to firearms, finding it a way to both protect and reassure slaves she shepherded to freedom in the north, perhaps making her a founder of the “black lives matter” movement:

Harriet Tubman carried a small pistol with her on her rescue missions, mostly for protection from slave catchers, but also to encourage weak-hearted runaways from turning back and risking the safety of the rest of the group. Tubman carried a sharp-shooters rifle during the Civil War.

An image of her carrying her gun is not likely to grace the new $20 bill, nor is any mention of her being a supporter of the anti-slavery Republican Party likely to be a regular part of the mainstream media and liberal Democratic mantra.  Harriet Tubman’s image should remind Americans that gun control was a historical method to control and subjugate blacks. UCLA constitutional law professor notes in The Atlantic:

Indisputably, for much of American history, gun-control measures, like many other laws, were used to oppress African Americans. The South had long prohibited blacks, both slave and free, from owning guns. In the North, however, at the end of the Civil War, the Union army allowed soldiers of any color to take home their rifles. Even blacks who hadn’t served could buy guns in the North, amid the glut of firearms produced for the war. President Lincoln had promised a “new birth of freedom,” but many blacks knew that white Southerners were not going to go along easily with such a vision. As one freedman in Louisiana recalled, “I would say to every colored soldier, ‘Bring your gun home.’”

Winkler also notes:

The KKK began as a gun-control organization. Before the Civil War, blacks were never allowed to own guns. During the Civil War, blacks kept guns for the first time – either they served in the Union army and they were allowed to keep their guns, or they buy guns on the open market where for the first time there’s hundreds of thousands of guns flooding the marketplace after the war ends. So they arm up because they know who they’re dealing with in the South. White racists do things like pass laws to disarm them, but that’s not really going to work. So they form these racist posses all over the South to go out at night in large groups to terrorize blacks and take those guns away. If blacks were disarmed, they couldn’t fight back.

One of the key reasons for the 14th Amendment’s guarantee that blacks were equal human beings with equal rights was to protect the gun rights of freed slaves after the Civil War. This reasoning was cited in the 2010 gun rights victory won by Otis McDonald in McDonald vs. Chicago. McDonald, a 76-year-old African-American Army veteran living in a high-crime area of Chicago who felt the Second Amendment gave him the right to protect himself and his family with a gun just as he once protected his country with a gun.

The Supreme Court agreed, with Justice Samuel Alito referencing the 14th Amendment:

Alito wrote: “Evidence from the period immediately following the ratification [in 1868] of the Fourteenth Amendment only confirms that the right to keep and bear arms was considered fundamental. … In sum, it is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.”….

In framing the argument that the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment should incorporate Second Amendment rights, Alito referenced post-Civil War laws that the Fourteenth Amendment intended to eliminate.

“The laws of some states formally prohibited African Americans from possessing firearms,” Alito said. “For example, a Mississippi law provided that ‘no freedman, free negro or mulatto, not in the military service of the United States government, and not licensed so to do by the board of police of his or her county, shall keep or carry firearms of any kind, or any ammunition, dirk or bowie knife.”

Harriet Tubman supported the Republican Party because it opposed slavery. She carried a gun because it protected the liberty and freedom of herself and those she delivered to freedom via the Underground Railroad.  Just as Democrats sought to enslave and disarm blacks back then, they now seek to entrap them in high crime urban areas run by liberal Democrats who seek to deny them, and the rest of us, the right to keep and bear arms.

Harriet Tubman’s image may never appear on the $20 bill, but we should all learn and remember the image showing this African-American Republican leading slaves to freedom from slavery under Democrats with a gun in her hand.

* Daniel John Sobieski is a former editorial writer for Investor’s Business Daily and freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Human Events, Reason Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.

06/16/20

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA Riots

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA RiotsThe riots of the spring of 2020 are far from without precedent in the United States. Indeed, they seem to happen once a generation at least. The 1992 Los Angeles Riots are such an example of these “generational riots.” And while most people know about the riots, less known – though quite well known at the time – were the phenomenon of the so-called “Roof Koreans.”

The Roof Koreans were spontaneous self-defense forces organized by the Korean community of Los Angeles, primarily centered in Koreatown, in response to violent and frequently racist attacks on their communities and businesses by primarily black looters and rioters during the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Despite their best efforts, over 2,200 Korean-owned businesses were looted or burned to the ground during the riots. It is chilling to imagine how many would have suffered the same fate had the Koreans not been armed.

Standing on the rooftops of Koreatown shops they and their families owned, clad not in body armor or tactical gear, but instead dressed like someone’s nerdy dad, often smoking cigarettes, but always on alert, the Roof Koreans provide a stirring example of how free Americans of all races can defend their own communities without relying upon outside help.

The Koreans of Los Angeles were the ultimate marginalized minority group. They were subject to discrimination and often victimized by the black community of the city. Due to language barriers and other factors, they lacked the political clout of other minority groups, such as the large Mexican community of Los Angeles County. This in spite of their clear economic success in the city beginning in the 1970s and 80s.

The reasons for the tensions between the Korean and black communities of Los Angeles pre-dates the riots, which were largely just the match that ignited the powder keg that had been this region of Los Angeles for years. To understand what happened in Koreatown in 1992, it is necessary to understand much more than simply the Rodney King trial and the resulting riots.

The Roots of Korean Business Ownership in Black Communities

How is it that the Korean-American community of Los Angeles ended up owning so much property in what were largely black neighborhoods? The answer, ironically, lies in a previous riot, the Watts Riot of 1965. This riot, which included six full days of arson and looting, was kicked off when a black man was arrested for drunk driving.

The riots occurred roughly at the same time that the Koreans started showing up in America. This meant that, among other things, businesses and real estate were very cheap to purchase. The newly arrived Korean immigrants began buying up the businesses that no one else wanted. By the 1980s, it wasn’t limited to Los Angeles – Koreans were dominating the mom-and-pop shops from coast to coast. But the resentment in the City of Angels was growing.

Prologue: The Death of Latasha Harlins

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA RiotsWhile it was not the start of tensions in the city between these two communities, the killing of Latasha Harlins in 1991 certainly ratcheted the situation up to a new level.

Harlins, whose personal life is a hard-luck story that does not bear repeating here, was 15 at the time when she was shot and killed by Korean shopkeeper Soon Ja Du, a 51-year-old woman born in Korea. Du generally didn’t even work in the store, a task that typically fell on her husband and her son. However, that day she was covering for her husband who was outside in the family’s van.

Du claimed that Harlins was trying to steal a $1.79 bottle of orange juice, but witnesses said they heard Du call Harlins a slur and heard Harlins say she planned to pay for the juice, with money in hand. After reviewing videotape footage, the police agreed with the witnesses. Video footage further showed Du grabbing Harlins by her sweatshirt and backpack.

Harlins responded by striking Du twice, which knocked the latter to the ground. Harlins started to back away, prompting Du to throw a stool at her. The two struggled over the juice before Harlins went to leave. Du went behind the counter and grabbed a revolver, firing at a retreating Harlins from behind from three feet away. Harlins was killed instantly by a bullet to the back of the head.

Billy Heung Ki Du, Ja’s husband, rushed into the store after hearing the gunshot. His wife asked where Harlins was before she fainted. Mr. Du then called 911 to report an attempted holdup.

Mrs. Du was charged with voluntary manslaughter, a charge that can carry up to 16 years in prison. At trial, she testified on her own behalf. The jury recommended the maximum sentence, which the judge rejected, instead giving Mrs. Du time served, five years probation, 500 hours of community service and a $500 fine. The California Court of Appeals upheld the sentence about a week before the riots began in a unanimous decision. Harlins’ family received a settlement of $300,000.

The case wasn’t the first example of tensions between the two communities, but it was a microcosm for them and perhaps the worst from an optics perspective. In 1991, the Los Angeles Times reported that there were four shootings in the span of just over four months involving a Korean shooter and a black target. The store was eventually burned down during the riots, never to reopen.

That same year, there was an over 100-day boycott of a Korean-American-owned liquor store that ended when the owner was effectively bullied into selling his store to a black owner. Then-Mayor Tom Bradley, who many blamed for the riots, was instrumental in coming to this “settlement” which chased a Korean owner out of the area.

The Rodney King Verdict: The Riots Begin

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA RiotsThe other relevant background story is the trial of Rodney King. This was what touched off the LA riots. The short version of the story is that Rodney King led the police on a high-speed chase going up to 115 miles per hour. He was evading them because he was driving while under the influence and was on parole at the time. His two passengers were loaded into the squad car first, with King exiting the car last.

King was beaten for approximately two minutes straight on a 12-minute tape recorded by a nearby civilian. He was also tazed. King repeatedly attempted to get up despite instructions to stay down. Officers later testified that they believed he was on PCP at the time, but his toxicology test ruled this out. The tape became a national sensation and then-Chief Daryl Gates described himself as being in “disbelief” when he saw the tape.

Four of the five officers on the scene were charged. The jury, which contrary to popular belief, was not “all white,” but did not include any black members, acquitted the four officers on assault, acquitted three of them on excessive force, and resulted in a hung jury on the fourth charge after seven days of deliberation.

At 5 p.m. after the verdicts were announced, Mayor Tom Bradley gave a press conference interpreted by many, including Assistant Los Angeles police chief Bob Vernon, as effectively giving permission to riot. Vernon stated that police incidents increased noticeably after the mayor’s statement.

The event credited with touching off the riots was the arrest of 16-year-old Seandel Daniels at 71st and Normandie in South Central Los Angeles. The rioters began attacking Koreatown on the second full day of rioting.

Koreatown Gets Attacked During the 1992 LA Riots

Koreans began moving to Los Angeles in large numbers after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, a radical departure from previous immigration laws that dramatically changed the demographic character of the nation, including Los Angeles. Many Koreans opened successful businesses in the area, but incurred resentment and racism from black residents, which is documented in popular culture of the time such as Do The Right Thing and Ice Cube’s “Black Korea” off of Death Certificate.

When the riots spread throughout the city, the LAPD blocked roads going through Koreatown into more affluent neighborhoods. This was seen by many residents as a containment that effectively left Koreatown residents trapped inside the riot zone. What’s more, the police and other first responders ignored the pleas for help coming from within Koreatown.

Of the nearly $1 billion in damages done during the riots, over half of it was done to Korean-owned businesses.

Enter the Roof Koreans

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA RiotsThe Korean community of Los Angeles did not simply sit by and allow their neighborhood and businesses to be destroyed by rioters without lifting a finger. On the contrary, the images of Korean shopkeepers and their families defending themselves from the rooftops of their buildings soon became one of the most iconic images of the riots. Live footage of gun battles was circulated on cable news and elsewhere. The images still resonate with freedom lovers to this day – what image could be more powerful than an ethnic minority refusing to subject itself to a pogrom, instead taking to the rooftops to defend themselves with deadly force, if necessary?

For firearms collectors, the Roof Koreans present another avenue of interest: They used many cool weapons that largely left the market after the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was passed. The Intratec TEC-9 and the A.A. Arms Kimel AP-9 are just two of the weapons used by the Roof Koreans, alongside more standard weapons such as the Daewoo K1, standard issue for the Republic of Korea’s military.

The Republic of Korea’s military is another key part of the story with regard to the Roof Koreans. Far from an untrained mob of men who took up with arms sans training, the Roof Koreans were, by virtually any definition, “a well-regulated militia.” Many of them had experience in the South Korean Army, as South Korea has conscription with very few exceptions.

It’s worth noting that virtually every weapon used by the Roof Koreans to defend themselves, their businesses, their communities, and their families would be against the law or, at least, highly restricted today. “High capacity magazines” (anything over ten rounds) are against the law and there is a 10-day waiting period for all firearms purchases. As the riots lasted five days, this would have put anyone who had not already purchased a firearm in a seriously precarious position.

The Lessons of the Roof Koreans

Kurt Schlichter was in Inglewood at the time of riots, one of the hardest-hit areas. He speaks eloquently on the topic of the Roof Koreans (or “Rooftop Koreans” as he calls them) and the need for communities to defend themselves. His account of defending Los Angeles against riots is worth reading, despite the fact that he was not in Koreatown.

He makes the case that it is not just wise, but the responsibility of all Americans to prepare themselves for such events. And while we would not go as far as him to suggest that people ought to be legally required to prepare for such an event, we do agree with him that everyone is their own first responder. More than that, there is a solid argument to be made that we have a duty to our community to prepare for those times when individual defense is not enough, but a common defense is necessary.

The Roof Koreans provide a perfect, real-life counter-argument to the idiotic question of gun grabbers that free men justify why they “need” certain arms to defend themselves. If ever anyone “needed” a fully automatic rifle with a 100-round magazine, it was the Korean community of Los Angeles.

06/5/20

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China’s Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic “Tank Man”

By: Jose Nino | Ammo.com

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManChina is often described as the next superpower to top America within the next few decades. At first glance, such an assertion makes sense. The country’s vast geography, natural resources, rich history, and tech-savvy populace puts it in a position to thrive in the 21st century. However, China’s rise as a superpower is not one of an overnight success, nor is it filled with pretty rainbows.

Indeed, China is one of the world’s longest-lasting civilizations, with cultural and political traditions that have been passed down to succeeding generations effortlessly. With such a vast history, China had gone through its own zeniths and nadirs. As is the nature of any civilization. However, China’s modern history has been a rollercoaster ride, to say the least.

Despite having a massive formal governing apparatus that would put many empires to shame, China has not always had full control of its territorial jurisdiction. Once European powers reached Chinese shores in search of riches, they soon wanted their piece of the pie. That meant slowly whittling away at Chinese territory. As the first movers in the Age of Exploration, the Portuguese and their missionaries colonized Macau.

Although the Portuguese’s venture was not exclusively about riches, it inspired other European actors such as the British to go and exploit China’s vast resources. Naturally, the Qing dynasty and Britain’s interests clashed once the British wanted to expand trade inside the country. What was originally a trade dispute between a Qing government wanting to maintain trade that overwhelmingly favored China, soon turned into a full-blown conflict as seen in the Opium War.

China was handed a humiliating defeat, which saw it turn over Hong Kong to the British. This marked a turning point in Chinese history. The once-mighty country slowly deteriorated both internally and externally. China soon became a punching bag for smaller, yet more militarily advanced countries that started setting up trading outposts in Shanghai. Indeed, these moves were not welcome by the Chinese and many in the Qing court, but due to the country’s decaying institutions, it could do nothing to prevent further predations.

Even empires on the Western periphery, like Imperial Russia, started to prey on China when it annexed all of the Chinese land north of the Amur River in 1858, exploiting Chinese weakness along a border that was, at the time, 4,650 miles long. As if China’s foreign reversals weren’t enough, Imperial Japan also jumped in the mix and picked apart China like other European powers. Japan put the world on notice when it crushed China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. As a result of this humiliation, Japan added the island of modern-day Taiwan, the Liaodong Peninsula, and the Korean peninsula into its sphere of influence. Japan’s exploitation of its weaker mainland rival did not stop there.

Even after the Qing dynasty collapsed, nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek tried to put the political pieces back together during the 1920s, in an attempt to unify the country and restore Chinese greatness. However, Imperial Japan was ready to humiliate China yet again, when it invaded Manchuria in 1931, and occupied it until 1945, in an attempt to expand its industrialization efforts.

All in all, the mid-19th century up until the mid-20th century was a rocky period. It took game-changing events after World War II for China to finally get its political house in order and build itself up on its own terms.

China: From Powerful Imperial Rule to a Weakened State

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManAs foreign powers such as the United States, Germany, Japan, and Russia carved out spheres of influence in the once-mighty empire, the Chinese imperial court began to lose legitimacy both domestically and abroad. In 1911, the Xinhai Revolution was the final straw that broke the Qing dynasty’s back. Chinese reformers grew tired of their country’s weakness and organized revolts across the country that ultimately forced the last Qing emperor, Pu Yi, to abdicate in 1912. However, the transition from empire to a modern-day nation-state was filled with many road bumps for China.

Despite political reformer and provisional president of the Republic of China Sun Yat-sen’s attempts to modernize the Chinese state, the country was quickly mired in internal struggles that prevented it from forming a coherent political structure in the immediate years following the fall of the Qing dynasty. The warlord control of the country soon became the norm as many optimistic Chinese reformers then realized the road to Chinese political stability would not come easy.

The Move to Unify the Chinese State

By the 1920s, China’s political destiny slowly started to change.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that movements began to emerge, with hopes to unify China and establish it as a sovereign nation free of foreign exploitation. The emergence of the Nationalist and Communist movements in China appealed to the nationalistic sentiment among the populace. Their messages, while ideologically different in economic matters, had a vision of restoring China’s rightful place on the world stage. They viewed the Qing dynasty as corrupt and feckless for allowing European powers and Japan to carve out the country. For China to be great, it had to be free of foreign influence.

The dream of a unified China nearly became a reality when the Nationalist (Kuomintang) movement led by Chiang Kai-Shek ended warlord rule and began consolidating the Chinese state. However, hopes of a unified China on both ideological and political lines were temporarily dashed when the Japanese invaded in the 1930s. The subsequent expansion of World War II to the Asian theater saw the previously dominant Nationalist forces having to fend off Japanese forces. Such fighting left the Nationalist forces greatly depleted, while their Communist foes pulled their forces in the Chinese interior.

Little did the Nationalists know that once World War II came to an end, they would be up against a replenished and emboldened Communist movement. And this time around, they would not go down without a fight.

Unifying the Chinese State Under Communism

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManOnce the dust settled from World War II, national unity went out the window. Communist forces under Mao Zedong were ready to duke it out with Chiang Kai-Shek and his Nationalist faction. So began the second phase of the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949). After four years of hard fighting, the Communists defeated the already depleted Kuomintang in 1949. By October 1949, Mao Zedong’s communist government was ready to usher in a new era of consolidated rule in China by declaring the People’s Republic of China. In response, the defeated Nationalists scurried to the island of Formosa, which would be renamed as Taiwan or the Republic of China. Despite China’s stubbornness in de-legitimizing the independent nation on the world stage, Taiwan would remain under the thumb of Chiang Kai-Shek until his death in 1975.

Once in command, Mao was focused on consolidating his internal power and centralizing the Chinese state at the domestic level. The Chinese leader was not so concerned about expanding China’s reach abroad during his first few years as Chairman of the Communist Party. Once his power was firmly established, he then proceeded to make China an industrial power conforming to principles of central-planning. China was no longer going to be the pushover that it once was in the latter half of the 19th century. It was ready to leave its mark on the international stage.

The Omnipresent Chinese Bureaucracy

The Chinese story is one of the eternal conflicts between centralized control and violent regionalism, as noted by Jacob L. Shapiro. Chairman Mao was faced with presiding over a large country with a long history of political violence. China encompasses such a vast territory, which necessitates large, bureaucratic systems to administer it. For political purposes, this bureaucracy has helped China maintain control over its jurisdiction in the short and mid-term. However, in the long-term, this bureaucracy would become unwieldy and parasitic. As a result, high taxation and economic stagnation would follow after this bureaucracy became ingrained in the Chinese political system. This has been a fixture of China’s so-called “Dynastic Cycle,” which appeared to rear its ugly head in modern times. Communist Party elites did not want to become the next generation of leaders who fell victim to this vicious cycle.

Mao despised the Chinese bureaucracy and was able to rip it to shreds when he initially took the helm of the Chinese state. However, when Mao wanted to embark on the Great Leap Forward – an ambitious program created to rapidly change the Chinese industry and agriculture through state planning – he had to come to grips with the reality that he needed bureaucracy to carry out his grandiose vision.

Off to the bureaucratic races China went.

The Great Leap Forward

Fearful of Mao’s punitive actions, Chinese bureaucrats fudged data in order to placate him. What seemed like a political maneuver to gain favor within the government, would later turn out to be a disaster for the people living in the countryside. China’s Great Leap Forward experiment was initially marketed as the program to take China to the next level of economic development. The Great Leap Forward was a concerted effort to collectivize the Chinese economy and hand over the commanding heights to the Chinese state. Private property and a market-based price system were cast aside, while the Chinese central planners tried to play god.

But playing god with the economy comes with a massive price to pay. Even the best central planners are unable to break the laws of economics. Such heavy-handed interventions in the economy destroyed China’s agricultural sector. In turn, the decimation of Chinese agriculture created famine conditions, which led to the deaths of an estimated range of 20 million to 45 million people. The casualties suffered during the Great Leap Forward made China another tragic case of democide, as the country became another casualty of central planning. Consequently, Mao Zedong saw his political image tarnished after this failed socialist experiment, which called into question the validity of his political ideology. But the man-made disaster did not deter him from pursuing other ambitious political programs. Mao was intent on leaving his political mark in China.

The Cultural Revolution

The Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976 was Mao’s final attempt to impose a top-down program on the Chinese populace. This ambitious political venture sought to re-assert proletarian values and rid the Chinese society of subversive bourgeois elements. However, this social program turned into a wide-scale political purge that hamstrung economic growth and undermined the civil liberties of millions in China. Like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution proved that Mao was too ambitious in socially engineering society according to his grandiose political vision. With two controversial efforts led by the Chinese state to radically transform the nation’s society, China’s political class started to become restless. Even the Communist Party knew that Mao took things too far. It was becoming clear that China was on the verge of falling into political chaos. A new course would need to be taken for the country to advance, lest it becomes another victim of its well established Dynastic Cycle. Several leaders in the Chinese Communist Party were ready to step up to the plate.

Geopolitical Tensions Create New Openings

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManPolitics never occur in a vacuum. Countries’ destinies are often shaped by external events, or at the very least, must adapt to international trends. In its quest to become a global superpower, China was no stranger to this. During the ambitious Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution programs, China was experiencing significant changes in its foreign policy. Communism may have had a unified vision against the bourgeois classes, but it witnessed numerous splits among countries throughout the 20th century. National interests often see ideologically similar countries take antagonistic paths.

The Communist sphere was indeed a house divided once the Chinese state was well established and ready to plot its own course. China’s Soviet “Big Brother” would soon learn that China was ready to grow up and pursue its own agenda. Initially, disputes surrounding debts that China incurred during the Korean War and the border they shared with the Soviet Union caused unrest between the two superpowers. Many Soviet officials saw Mao’s leadership purges as a flashback to the brutal regime of Josef Stalin. As a result, Soviet leadership became weary of their Communist “little brother” down South. In the same token, the Chinese remembered their exploitation at the hands of the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Naturally, they had no interest in repeating the same predatory relationship with its northern neighbor.

Looking from afar, America took advantage of this geopolitical tension by playing China off of the Soviet Union. The first concrete step in undermining the Soviet Union was Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, which helped re-establish diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries. With China now tasting the fruits of international capitalism, albeit to a limited degree, its old economic model of top-down control was on the ropes. Additionally, the failed Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution programs made the more pragmatic elements of the Chinese Communist Party reconsider Maoism. The economic benefits from restored relationships with America were simply too large to ignore. On top of that, the Chinese state could capture unprecedented economic benefits from opening up trade with America. This would enable China to not only grow economically but also strengthen its governing apparatus. The Chinese state was then set for new leadership to emerge and continue integrating China into the global market. The days of Chinese isolation would soon come to an end.

The Economic and Political Transformation of Deng Xiaoping’s China

Once Deng Xiaoping succeeded Mao Zedong, China was poised for national greatness. Deng acknowledged that Maoism did not bring about its desired results for China, and a new economic program was needed to bring the country back to its feet. Now that the Communist Party was well entrenched in power and China was able to pacify any internal threats, the country was ready to interact with the outside world on its own terms. Gone were the days that China would be bullied by the West.

Recognizing the failure of central planning, while also taking into account the economic potential China had on the international stage, Deng Xiaoping embarked on a series of bold reforms. Unlike its humiliating experience of the late 19th century, China was opening up its markets without being the victim of gunboat diplomacy.

Deng’s regime enacted certain reforms that brought back market dynamics, albeit in limited form, to the Chinese economy. Land privatization and the creation of special economic zones helped make China more competitive in the international arena. According to certain reports, China’s annual GDP growth rate ranged from 9.5 to 11.5 percent from 1978 to 2013. Thanks to these market-based reforms, China’s GDP increased tenfold, and, as a result, millions of Chinese were lifted out of poverty. The horrific scenes of the Great Leap Forward soon became a distant memory as skyscrapers dotted illustrious cities like Shanghai, and factories were built left and right to bolster China’s breakneck industrial growth. “Made in China” soon became a staple of China’s economic prowess, as it flooded the world with basic goods coming out of its factories. But this could never have been possible without China making an attempt to open up its markets.

As Milton Friedman observed, economic freedom is generally a precondition for political freedom. When societies see economic freedoms gradually expanded, the new rich and emerging middle classes begin demanding more political freedoms.

As Chinese economic growth soared throughout the 1980s, its citizens demanded more than just economic prosperity. The death of pro-reform Communist leader Hu Yaobang in April 1989, caused several disturbances throughout the country. While on the economic uptick, Post-Mao China was marked by political uncertainty and Hu’s death added more fuel to the fire. Both the general populace and the political elite were rocked by the market reforms of Deng’s regime, which benefited some members of the newly rising entrepreneurial class, but still did not satisfy China’s humbler citizens.

The ruling elite also faced some questions about political legitimacy. Some of the concerns centered around corruption, employment prospects, inflation, and political freedoms. China’s student class started to demand new freedoms such as democracy, transparency in government, and free speech rights among other things. Protests started to pop up throughout the country, with the main ones centering around Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The Historical Significance of Tiananmen Square

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManHistorically, Tiananmen Square held great significance in Chinese politics. It was the place where the May Fourth Movement of 1919 occurred, when students’ protests aired grievances with the Chinese government’s tepid response to the Treaty of Versailles, which awarded Japan territories in the Shandong province. This movement helped jumpstart the Chinese Communist and Nationalist movements respectively.

Fast forward 30 years, the Proclamation of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong on October 1, 1949, took place on Tiananmen Square as well. This marked the end of the Chinese Communist Revolution (1945-1949) and ushered in the Communist Party’s dominance over Chinese politics.

In 1989, student protestors sought to use this same square as their platform to make history by demanding the introduction of basic civil liberties – such as free speech and the right to peacefully assemble against the government – concepts which were unheard of throughout China’s long political history. In the fateful month of April 1989, they took to the streets in protest. Indeed, these students made history, but things didn’t go as planned for them.

Chinese Leadership Becomes Weary of the Threat of Democratic Reforms

Wanting to preserve the Communist Party’s political supremacy at all costs, China’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, along with his Communist Party brain trust, perceived the protests as a political threat. Wasting no time in responding to these protests, the Chinese government proceeded to use force after the Chinese State Council declared martial law on May 20th, and deployed approximately 300,000 troops to Beijing. When troops arrived in Beijing on June 4th, they began killing protestors and bystanders.

The Chinese government arrested thousands of protesters, cracked down on other demonstrations in the country, kicked out foreign journalists, censored coverage of the Tiananmen incident in the press, bolstered police powers, and purged officials it believed to be receptive to the protestors’ cause. Estimates pin the death toll from several hundred to thousands.

Unsurprisingly, this incident received international condemnation. However, China’s status as a nuclear power and its newfound prosperity positioned it where it could avoid any direct military confrontation from other countries who disapproved of its agenda. Unlike 19th century China, 20th century China could take bold political actions without the fear of international actors trying to directly attack it.

The Birth of Tank Man

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManA day after the crackdown, on June 5, 1989, one of the most iconic images from the Tiananmen protests emerged. A man, who would be known as Tank Man or the Unknown Rebel, stood in front of a convoy of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square.

The lead tank tried to maneuver past the man but was met with nonviolent resistance. The man repeatedly shuffled in front of the tank to obstruct the tank’s path. After a while, the lead tank stopped in its tracks and the armored tanks behind it stopped as well. From there, a short pause began with the man and tanks remaining in a standstill.

The video footage then shows the man climbing on top of the tank’s turret and chatting with a crew member and the tank’s commander. After having a conversation, the man jumps back down and gets in front of the tank again. The standoff between the man and tank continued until two figures in blue came out and pulled the man to the side. To this day, witnesses at this event are unsure about who pulled the “Tank Man” to the side. Furthermore, the identity and fate of the man is still unknown, although there has been speculation that he was either executed or fled the country shortly thereafter.

China’s Authoritarianism Lives On

The Tiananmen Square massacre was indeed a turning point in Chinese history. After an unprecedented liberalization of the economy up until the late 1980s, the Chinese state firmly put the breaks on any type of political reform that would enhance political freedoms. China showed the entire world that it would put hard limits on freedom, even if it meant receiving stiff criticism from Western democratic governments. As a sovereign nuclear power, China could proceed with its domestic policy as it pleased, knowing full well that no other world power would try to aggress against it.

To this day, civil liberties that Westerners often take for granted are heavily restricted in China. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has embarked on one of the most ambitious censorship programs in human history. Now the Chinese state is even putting Muslim Uighurs in re-education camps, much to the chagrin of international human rights observers. The Tiananmen incident remains one of the most heavily censored topics in Chinese political discourse.

The iconic image of the man confronting the tanks is a strong symbol of mankind’s eternal struggle to achieve freedom. Despite its fantastic economic growth, China remains one of the more authoritarian countries in the world. Just like freedom did not come to the West overnight, basic freedoms will likely take decades before they firmly take root in China.

Until then, the Chinese state remains firm in its hold over the Chinese populace.

05/29/20

Enter The Great Ammo Giveaway!

Jamie Burns over at BulkMunitions reached out to us at NoisyRoom.net recently to see if we’d be interested in hosting a giveaway that would give one of our readers some free ammo ($300 gift card to BulkMunitions). Of course, we checked to make sure there weren’t any hooks in the deal. Nope, all good so we said: “Sure, let’s go for it.”

If you want a chance to win a gift card worth $300 at BulkMunitions, be sure to enter below! Act fast though; sweepstakes closes June 10, 8 PM EDT.”

05/28/20

Coronavirus Produces All-Time Record Gun Sales – and New Gun Control

By: Travis Olander | 80-Lower.com

Travis Olander manages 80-Lower.com, offering 80% lowers, AR-15 kits, and gunsmithing parts for shooters and Second Amendment enthusiasts.

Through March and April, Americans flocked to gun stores, emptied the digital shelves of online gun dealers, and collectively set monthly sales records. Yet as Coronavirus spread across the country and states were left to decide how to handle lockdowns and quarantines, many Democrat governors and officials used the opportunity to close gun stores. While groups lobbied the White House to deem gun stores essential businesses, Americans turned to a niche part of the firearm market often overlooked: At-home gun build kits.

Coined “ghost guns” by those on the left, these kits allow enthusiasts to machine their own firearms from parts at home. The Gun Control Act of 1968 allows any individual who can otherwise legally own a gun to build one from scratch, no license or paperwork required. The process requires some relatively advanced tooling and machinist’s know-how. Yet while these gun-making kits have been available years, they’re experiencing new scrutiny – and a new wave of popularity among Second Amendment advocates – in the age of Coronavirus.

Legally, these kits are not considered firearms so they can be ordered and shipped directly to any humble abode. While many gun stores struggle to meet demand and others battle their state legislators to even stay open, veteran and first-time buyers are turning to these DIY kits. This drew ire from Senate Democrats who, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), introduced a bill to ban such kits altogether. The bill also requires all firearms to be serialized by January 1, 2022.

Elsewhere, Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) introduced H.R. 5717, a bill that would impose a 30% ammo tax and 50% tax on all firearm sales at the federal level. In Arizona, Michael Bloomberg dumped dollars into anti-gun propaganda while state Senator Rebecca Rios (D) co-sponsored S.B. 1625, yet another state-level assault weapon ban.

The legislative halls of Congress are not the only places lawmakers are attempting to derail the Second Amendment. As the FBI and ATF struggle to keep up with record demand for gun sale background checks, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Blumenthal sent a letter to the agencies asking them to halt pending gun sales. Currently, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has three days to complete a background check for a pending sale. If it cannot complete the check, gun dealers can process the transaction for the buyer.

Legislation has been introduced to overturn this rule which guarantees Americans’ Second Amendment rights cannot be delayed by proxy indefinitely. H.R. 1112, sponsored by Democrat Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, would allow the ATF and FBI to stop any gun sales in perpetuity by negating the time requirements for completing background checks.

While gun-related crimes and homicides have been on a steady and significant decline over the last two decades, it’s common knowledge that gun sales and gun rights cause violent reactions, even physical attacks, from anti-gun advocates. Coronavirus has only exacerbated this phenomenon: According to the Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting organization, handgun sales have increased by 91% since last year. Long guns, by 73.6%. The FBI reported over 3.7 million background checks in March, followed by 2.9 million more in April. If true, that means over 6.6 million firearms were added to Americans’ homes in just 60 days, excluding gun kit sales.

With the presidential election fast approaching and Coronavirus amplifying the line of scrimmage between conservative constitutionalists and liberal authoritarians, gun control is sure to be an issue that comes to a head in 2020.

05/16/20

Mexico Comes Demanding Documents On Fast And Furious… Why Now?

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

MEXICO CITY, May 11 (Reuters) – Mexico’s foreign minister on Monday posted a video online detailing a diplomatic note to the U.S. embassy requesting answers about a gun-running sting under the Obama presidency, keeping a spotlight on the controversial issue.

Live: Trump threatens tariffs on Mexico over immigration ...

In the video, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard cited former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as saying Mexican authorities knew about the 2009-2011 scheme known as ‘Fast and Furious.’

Representatives for Holder did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Nor did the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.

It was the first time Ebrard or President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had made direct reference by name to a key U.S. figure connected to the program since the issue resurfaced in Mexico a week ago.

In a bid to curb cross-border gun smuggling, the U.S. scheme allowed people to illegally buy arms in the United States and take them to Mexico so that the weapons could be tracked and lead law enforcement officials to crime bosses. Some of those guns were subsequently blamed for the fatal shootings of both Mexican and U.S. citizens.

The current Mexican government has zeroed in on the program to highlight possible corruption under previous Mexican administrations amid a debate over how much they knew about the U.S. operation.

Holder, who served as U.S. Attorney General under Barack Obama between 2009 and 2015, had previously issued a statement via the U.S. embassy in Mexico contending that “Mexican authorities” knew about the program, Ebrard said.

“The (Mexican) government requests that it be provided with all the information available regarding the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation,” Ebrard said in the video posted on Twitter.

Lopez Obrador first brought up the gun-running program last Monday when answering questions about Genaro Garcia Luna, a former Mexican security minister who was arrested in the United States in December on drug trafficking offenses.

Garcia Luna served under former President Felipe Calderon from 2006-12, spearheading a crackdown on drug cartels. Lopez Obrador has used his arrest to argue that corruption was rampant in past Mexican governments.

Some critics of Lopez Obrador contend that he has done U.S. President Donald Trump a favor by raising questions about Garcia Luna as the U.S president prepares to fight a November election against Joe Biden, who was vice president from 2009 to 2017 under Obama.

Lopez Obrador’s supporters say he has focused on the issue to illustrate hypocrisy among his domestic adversaries.

Calderon, a longstanding political rival of Lopez Obrador, said last week there was no agreement between Mexico and the United States to permit illicit entry of arms.

‘Fast and Furious’ followed earlier sting operations that began under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. (Reporting by Drazen Jorgic and Sharay Angulo; Editing by Dave Graham and Jane Wardell)

***

Judge rules DOJ must share documents from Fast and Furious ...

Americans paying attention to the unresolved Obama era scandals would like to know all the truth too. So as a refresher here is the latest status of the investigation.

May 2016:

JS: Last week, Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued an important opinion in Oversight Committee v. Lynch, the subpoena enforcement litigation related to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. Media outlets generally reported it as a win for Congress and loss for the Executive. In an acute sense, that is true — Judge Jackson ordered the Justice Department to produce sensitive materials that reflect deliberations about how to respond to congressional requests and media inquiries. However, the opinion is a much more complicated ruling that reinforces some longstanding executive branch legal arguments that Congress has perennially disputed. In the longer term, this opinion may actually be a win for the executive branch, despite being ordered to hand over documents the President designated as privileged.

Background

The case arose from DOJ’s refusal to turn over to Congress a number of disputed documents pursuant to President Obama’s formal assertion of executive privilege. The underlying congressional investigation sought information related to failed gun trafficking investigations led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that came to be collectively referred to as Operation Fast and Furious. Starting during the fall of 2009, ATF agents in Arizona began setting up a series of sting operations targeting gunrunners who were moving large quantities of firearms across the Mexico border. But, inadequate surveillance, technology failures, and poor judgment led ATF to allow many of the guns it was using in the stings to “walk.” A number of those lost weapons ended up in the hands of drug cartels and showed up at various crime scenes on both sides of the US-Mexico border, including at the scene of the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010. Just last week, within days of Judge Jackson’s opinion, news outlets reported that one of the guns at issue in Operation Fast and Furious was found at El Chapo’s hideout.

However, the document dispute has very little to do with the allegations about ATF’s problematic investigative tactics. With the exception of a few documents related to wiretaps, grand jury materials, and confidential information in open investigative files, Congress received almost all of the underlying documents related to Operation Fast and Furious.

Instead, the most significant dispute in the case relates to Congress’s allegation that DOJ officials lied to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in February 2011. Congress then aggressively sought all documents related to the Department’s communications and deliberations about how to respond to the congressional investigation and media inquiries, for before and long after the alleged misrepresentation to Grassley. The administration eventually accommodated the Committee by providing access to all the documents that had led to providing Grassley inaccurate information. Those documents demonstrated good faith but a lack of diligence by responsible officials in both Phoenix and Washington, DC. However, Congress forged ahead with a sprawling meta-investigation that raised significant institutional concerns within the Executive about the collapse of “separation” in the separation of powers. (At that time, I was Associate Counsel to the President and was involved in White House negotiations with the Oversight Committee over various congressional requests related to Operation Fast and Furious.) The document stalemate served as the primary basis for a House vote of contempt of Congress against then-Attorney General Eric Holder in June 2012. That same month, the House authorized this civil enforcement lawsuit.

Short-Term Loss for the Executive

At the top line, last week Judge Jackson ordered DOJ to produce all the documents it had designated as protected by the deliberative process privilege. In the absence of an appellate reversal, the Oversight Committee will obtain its prize: some 5,342 unique documents reflecting executive branch deliberations about how to respond to a hostile congressional committee and how to respond to media requests. To be sure, the Committee will seek to make hay of those deliberations and any impolitic remarks they contain.

DOJ had argued the production of documents revealing deliberations about how to respond to Congress would chill fulsome responses to Congress. The court quotes DOJ’s longstanding position that disclosure “would inhibit the candor of such Executive Branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the Executive Branch’s ability to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight.” I have previously argued that branch independence is critical in response to oversight requests.

Judge Jackson’s order relies on her holding that Congress’s oversight need outweighs DOJ’s confidentiality interest on the facts in this record. Specifically, she suggests the need for deliberations to be confidential was substantially weakened by prior subject matter disclosures by the public report of DOJ’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). She finds “whatever incremental harm that could flow from providing the Committee with the records that have already been publicly disclosed is outweighed by the unchallenged need for the material.”

Ironically, DOJ has long relied on the OIG report to bolster its argument that Congress could obtain the information elsewhere, which is one of the factors to be considered in the leading DC Circuit opinion on privilege, In re Sealed Case (Espy).

The court’s analysis seems to suggest that an executive branch entity must challenge the legitimacy of Congress’s investigative interests at the categorical subject-matter level rather than at the incremental request level. By characterizing Congress’s interest as an “unchallenged need,” Judge Jackson uses DOJ’s ready concession that Congress had legitimate oversight interests in problematic gun trafficking investigations against it. DOJ didn’t challenge Congress’s investigation as illegitimate, but it certainly argued that Congress has almost no legitimate interest in peering into DOJ’s process of drafting letters to Congress. At the individual request level, DOJ vigorously challenges Congress’s need. The opinion reflects a court that appears to have prudential concerns about assigning relative values to inherently political determinations about the needs and interests of coordinate branches.

However, oversight disputes do not play out at the categorical level. They play out in the give-and-take of phone calls, letter requests, subpoenas, media availabilities, depositions, and transcribed interviews. Further, unlike judicial proceedings, there are no referees, protective orders, evidentiary rules, or motions to quash during that investigative process. By the time an interbranch dispute reaches the courts, all of those fights have happened and positions have hardened. A categorical approach is a meat axe where a scalpel is needed.

That is why I took some issue with the court’s prior ruling that that the matter is justiciable. To me, justiciability requires judicious review of the reasonableness of requests, the chilling effect of a particular disclosure, and the incremental nature of harms. So, as I wrote in October 2013:

If a court is going to resolve an important dispute between Congress and the President, wouldn’t congressional need, withholding grounds, and accommodation alternatives be the essential inquiry? … The notion that the underlying facts about controversial ATF investigative tactics have come to light and remedied should bear on analysis of Congress’s need to intrude on Executive Branch deliberations.

Likely of little solace to the executive branch, Judge Jackson cabined her rationale to “the specific and unique circumstances of this case.” In addition, the court specifically noted that its “ruling is not predicated on a finding that the withholding was intended to cloak wrongdoing on the part of government officials or that the withholding itself was improper.”

Longer-Term Win for the Executive

Of more comfort to DOJ, Judge Jackson has now ruled in favor of the Executive Branch, and against Congress, on the two most contested issues that are likely to have enduring precedential effect.

First, as I have discussed previously, the court’s August 2014 ruling held the Executive Branch may assert a deliberative process privilege in response to a congressional subpoena. Congress had argued that the deliberative process privilege was grounded in common law alone and therefore inapplicable to a separation-of-powers dispute. In Judge Jackson’s prior opinion, “the Court reject[ed] the Committee’s suggestion that the only privilege the executive can invoke in response to a subpoena is the Presidential communications privilege.”

Second, in last week’s opinion, Judge Jackson specifically held that the deliberative process privilege also applies to deliberations about how to respond to media inquiries or congressional requests. Congress had argued that the privilege is confined exclusively to policy deliberations. Rejecting that argument, the opinion notes “the Court holds that documents withheld by defendant that reveal the Department’s internal deliberations about how to respond to press and Congressional inquiries into Operation Fast and Furious are protected by the deliberative process privilege.”

As a practical matter that protection dissolved in the face of the court’s prior disclosure and incremental harm analysis. But the holding is a significant doctrinal win for the Executive branch. Many DOJ attorneys will have an impulse to appeal this ruling in order to shield the ordered disclosures, but perhaps the executive branch’s two substantial legal victories will caution against it.

04/16/20

Patriots’ Day: The Forgotten History of America’s Patriots’ Day and What it Commemorates

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

Patriots' Day: The Forgotten History of America's Patriots' Day and What it CommemoratesWhile it’s not celebrated too widely outside of New England, Patriots’ Day (or “Patriot’s Day” if you live in Maine) is a big deal there, primarily in the state where the Battles of Lexington and Concord actually took place – Massachusetts. For anyone reading this from New England who isn’t aware: No, you’re not getting the third Monday in April off so you can stay home and watch the Boston Marathon.

Even before the Declaration of Independence was written, there were the Battles of Lexington and Concord – the true beginning of the American Revolution. To be sure, this is something that had been brewing for some time. There was the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Intolerable Acts. But the Battles of Lexington and Concord marked the first shots fired between Patriots and Tories, beginning what would eventually lead to the independence of the American colonies from the British Empire.

While the battles began as a small skirmish, they quickly became a bona fide fight – and a bridge from which the American rebels could not walk back.

Increasing Tensions in the Massachusetts Bay Colony

By the time of the battles, the British occupying troops had already earned the nickname of “redcoats,” or even “devils” depending on who you spoke to. They had been occupying Boston since 1768, and due to forced quartering as well as increased resistance on the part of the colonists, the tensions between the natives and the occupying army were only growing with time.

Boston was to some degree under the control of General Thomas Gage, military governor of Massachusetts and the commander of a garrison of some 3,000 British troops stationed in the city. However, outside of the city was a whole other issue. Indeed, it was outside of the city where the rebel sentiment held the most sway. While it is often said that one-third of colonists were Tories, another third Patriots, and another third apathetic, the Patriots held the overwhelming majority of support among Massachusetts colonists outside of Boston.

Gage planned to assert central control over the more rural parts of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by using small strikes to confiscate the Patriot militias’ supplies. He had some success in doing this in advance of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in what was known as the Powder Alarms.

Still, due to the threat of Indian raids, every town in Massachusetts was required to have a militia. And these militias needed supplies. Disarming all of them seemed unlikely at best.

Confiscating the Colonial Arms

On April 14, 1775, the order came down from the central authority in London that General Gage was to confiscate the colonial arms. On the morning of April 18, Gage sent a mounted patrol of 20 men to intercept messengers and, perhaps most importantly, to find Samuel Adams and John Hancock. It was their search for the latter two men that tipped off the colonists that something bigger was afoot. This put the residents of the area on a higher alert than they otherwise might have been.

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith was ordered to go relieve the Concord militia of its arms and powder, but not to disturb the locals or their property. He did not give orders to arrest the rebel leaders for fear that this would spark a huge uprising.

The Patriots had largely been alerted to both the general plan (remove their arms and powder) and the specific plan (go after the Concord militia), and the Massachusetts Provincial Congress ordered the militias to resist the British troops with force.

On April 18, in preparation for the arrival of British troops, Paul Revere took his famous “midnight ride” to warn the colonists of the area that “the British are coming.” Indeed, the colonials had intercepted the transmission from London and knew that April 19th would be the day of the raid, even before General Gage knew. The leading lights of the rebellion left the city of Boston and laid low to avoid an arrest.

The Minutemen Are Born

The American mythos surrounding the Minutemen is about as powerful as that surrounding the cowboy. Thus it is fitting that the Minutemen were born during the battle that kicked off the struggle for American independence.

While it’s true that the Minutemen were in existence before these battles, it was during Lexington and Concord when they really came into their own as an important force. Indeed, in response to the “midnight ride,” militiamen were organized as far as 25 miles away while British troops were still landing.

Lexington was more of a minor skirmish than anything. The British troops weren’t even supposed to be there. British Marine Lieutenant Jesse Adai decided to turn right instead of left, putting him in Lexington instead of Concord.

Upon meeting up with the rebels, an unknown British officer rode in front of the British troops, waved his sword and ordered the militia to disperse, yelling “lay down your arms, you damned rebels!” For his part, the captain of the militia ordered his men to disperse, but his orders were either unheard or not obeyed. In any event, while some of the men did choose to disperse, none of them laid down their arms. Both commanding officers ordered their men not to fire, but someone did.

No one is sure who fired first. In fact, most historical sources agree that it was someone uninvolved in the fighting. Only one British troop suffered minor injuries. However, eight patriots were killed and 10 were wounded at Lexington. Most of these occurred during a British bayonet charge.

In Concord, militiamen from both Concord and neighboring Lincoln were already amassing. Tensions mounted between an advancing Patriot militia and a retreating British force at The North Bridge. A firefight broke out, leading militia commander Major Buttrick to yell out, “Fire, for God’s sake, fellow soldiers, fire!”

Fire they did. The British regulars were soon outnumbered and outmaneuvered. It was a stunning strategic victory for the American Patriot forces.

The Reaction to the Battles

It’s likely that none of the colonists expected to win this battle, nevermind to win it quite as handily as they did. Most probably didn’t even think there would be a confrontation where each side was shooting to kill. However, the early stages of the American revolution are filled with examples of the colonists being surprised as they walked further and further out onto the ledge of independence.

All told, 15,000 militiamen showed up to encircle Boston on three sides and to keep the British regulars hemmed inside the city where they could only do negligible damage. Men were pouring into the region from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, forming the core of what was about to become the Continental Army.

General Gage did not declare martial law but instead continued his move to seize private weapons by other means.

The main reason the battle was a strategic failure for the British was that it baited them into exactly the kind of confrontation they were trying to avoid by confiscating arms from the colonial militias. The battle was largely seen as the moment when the rebels crossed the metaphorical Rubicon and could not go back to the status quo antebellum.

For what it’s worth, the Patriots very heavily relied upon propaganda to paint this battle in a positive light. Inconvenient facts were suppressed and more positive aspects of the Patriots’ role in the battle were played up to give the colonists a battle they could believe in.

Over the years, the battle began to take on an almost mythic quality. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Concord Hymn” was one of the earliest post-Revolutionary attempts at lionizing the battle. “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was memorized by generations of schoolchildren.

Four Massachusetts National Guard units can directly tie their lineage to this battle.

The Beginnings of Patriots’ Day

In 1894, the Lexington Historical Society petitioned the Massachusetts General Court to declare April 19th “Lexington Day.” Concord wasn’t willing to let this stand and counter-petitioned that it be declared (what else?) “Concord Day.”

They were both at a bit of a loss when they found out that the biggest battle fought on April 19th was actually in Menotomy, which is now known as Arlington. It has been speculated that one of the reasons the much larger battle is less remembered than the two smaller ones is because the name of the town has changed several times since the American Revolution.

As a compromise designed to keep everyone happy, Governor Frederic T. Greenhalge proclaimed the day “Patriots’ Day,” which replaced the previous Fast Day. The new state holiday served to consolidate what had previously been a variety of local observances throughout the state. It further commemorated the first blood of the Civil War during the Baltimore Riots of 1861, where four Massachusetts militia members were killed.

Maine became the second state to celebrate the holiday in 1907, likewise replacing what had formerly been Fast Day. New Hampshire became the third state in 1991, with Connecticut joining as the fourth in 2018. It is currently celebrated on the third Monday in April.

Because Bay Staters love their sports, the Boston Marathon takes place on Patriot’s Day, and the Boston Red Sox have been scheduled for home games every year since 1959. In 2013, they played despite the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Those who do not live in Massachusetts or New England frequently confuse or conflate the holiday with Bunker Hill Day or Evacuation Day. The former of these celebrates an unrelated battle in June, and the latter commemorates the British evacuation from the city of Boston after the successful siege by the nascent Continental Army. Evacuation Day, for its part, is often confused with St. Patrick’s Day because it is commemorated on the same day.

All of these (except St. Patrick’s Day, of course) are part of a family of holidays known as Minor Revolutionary Holidays. But Patriot’s Day is arguably the most important of them for three reasons. First, it celebrates the very beginning of our nation. Before the Battles of Lexington and Concord, we were nothing more than a bunch of colonies with a few radical rebels. After the battles, we became a nation in the making.

The other reason largely flows from the first: While there are only a handful of New England states that celebrate Patriot’s Day, it is recognized in Wisconsin as a day off for the public schools. The State of Florida urges people to celebrate it without it being an official holiday. People around the country have at least heard of Patriot’s Day in a way that they haven’t, for example, Bennington Battle Day.

Finally, the Battles of Lexington and Concord are arguably where the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms was born. It was the attempt by the redcoats to seize their arms that demonstrated just how important this right was to the colonials. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the Patriots putting their lives on the line to defend that right.

So, on April 19 (or the third Monday of April, whichever you like), go ahead and remember Patriot’s Day – why it’s celebrated and what it is intended to remember. Even if you’re not in New England, it’s important to remember the origins of our nation in a small battle outside of Boston.

03/1/20

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & Abusive

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveIt’s unlikely that there is a single federal alphabet organization less popular among the readership of this website than the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. These are the people who gave us both the Siege at Ruby Ridge and the Siege of Waco. What’s more, they may well be engaged in an entirely unconstitutional exercise: monitoring and patrolling the gun ownership of law-abiding citizens.

There’s also a solid case to be made that the ATF is a rogue organization, the most corrupt of the federal alphabet agencies. This can be seen through a number of scandals beginning with Ruby Ridge, threading through the siege at Mount Carmel in Waco, and continuing to the notorious “Fast and Furious” scandal.

While firearms owners, weapons enthusiasts and Second Amendment advocates might have a special bone to pick with the ATF, we believe that all freedom-loving Americans should be concerned about the overreach, lawlessness, and lack of accountability in this organization. Roman poet Juvenal once posed an important (and famous) question about powerful justice officers: Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” – Who is to guard the guardians?

All told, there are over 20,000 firearms laws and regulations on the books at the state and federal level. Many of these contradict each other or are written with a lot of room for interpretation. Gun owners and gun dealers are easy prey for a corrupt and lawless federal agency that wants to twist its arms outside the bounds of the law.

It’s also worth considering what overreach and lack of accountability other federal organizations are responsible for that we don’t know about, simply because they do not have the same spotlight on them as the ATF – a reminder that the scandals mentioned above are just the ones that we know about.

We recommend reading this article in concert with our other articles on the ATF: WacoRuby Ridge and Fast and Furious. Each of these contains familiar tropes with regard to the ATF: Entrapment, “lost” evidence, a total lack of accountability, aggressive policing tactics where discretion would probably have saved lives, and a vengeful manner of doing business.

The Pre-History of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveThe ATF’s genesis lies all the way back in 1886, as a part of the Department of Treasury. Then it was known as the Revenue Laboratory within the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The pre-history of the ATF can then be traced through the Bureau of Prohibition, itself a branch of the Bureau of Internal Revenue formed in 1920. The Bureau of Prohibition was then spun off as an independent agency under the umbrella of the Treasury Department in 1927, before becoming a part of the Justice Department in 1930, and eventually merged into the FBI briefly in 1933.

In December 1933, Prohibition was repealed and the Prohibition Bureau became the Alcohol Tax Unit (ATU) of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In 1942, they were also tasked with enforcing federal firearms laws, which were scant at the time, to say the least – remember that fully automatic machine guns were legal until 1986.

In the early 1950s, the Bureau of Internal Revenue became the Internal Revenue Service that we all know and love today. As part of this reorganization of federal alphabet agencies, the Alcohol Tax Unit was tasked with collecting tobacco taxes as well and became known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division (ATTD).

It was with the 1968 Gun Control Act that the agency became the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Division of the IRS, and also received some jurisdiction over bombings and arson. In 1972, it became a fully independent bureau of the Treasury Department – the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (B.A.T.F). It was here that the Bureau became tasked more with the enforcement of the law around firearms than it did about collecting taxes on tobacco and alcohol.

A Long History of Abuse and Corruption in the ATF

The ATF had a bad reputation long before the events of Ruby Ridge and Waco. They were subject to Congressional hearings in the late 70s and early 80s because their methods for securing a case were considered overzealous. Evidence at the hearings was presented by American citizens who had been charged, experts who had closely studied the Bureau, and internal officials from the Bureau. The Senate sub-committee investigating declared:

“Based upon these hearings, it is apparent that ATF enforcement tactics made possible by current federal firearms laws are constitutionally, legally, and practically reprehensible.”

The ATF was considered especially harmful because they often targeted people who not only didn’t know they were doing anything wrong but had absolutely no malicious intent at all. Their efforts focused on gun collectors rather than stopping street crime. Indeed, the same investigation found that 75 percent of all ATF prosecutions were targeted at people who had no knowledge that they were breaking the law and had no intent to do anything criminal.

The Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) was squarely aimed at reducing the abuses of the Bureau. Nothing less than a complete overhaul of the 1968 Gun Control Act, FOPA allowed for increased interstate sales of long arms, shipping ammunition through the U.S. mail, ended record keeping requirements on most forms of ammunition, and protected the transportation of otherwise illegal firearms across state lines (“safe passage”).

This is also the act that largely prohibited the ownership of fully automatic machine guns by civilians, so it certainly wasn’t perfect.

Ruby Ridge and Waco

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveFollowing FOPA in 1986, the next big chapters in ATF history are the sieges at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and Waco in 1993. These events lead directly to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The Siege at Ruby Ridge

In 1992, Ruby Ridge, Idaho, was the site of an 11-day standoff between the ATF and Randy Weaver – who had been entrapped by the ATF into violating the law regarding the barrel length of a shotgun. They attempted to coerce him into becoming a snitch inside the Aryan Nations (which, as it turned out, was basically an organization entirely full of snitches). When he refused, the ATF moved forward with prosecution.

There was a series of bureaucratic SNAFUs that led to Weaver not knowing what his court date was, missing it, and then deciding not to show up at all out of the very legitimate fear that he would not get a fair shake. So the Marshal Service came in, guns blazing in tactical gear, and did what the feds are perhaps best known for: They shot Weaver’s dog. Unfortunately, it went further than that. They also shot his 14-year-old son Sammy in the back and his wife through a door while she held their infant child.

Patriots descended onto the scene and 11 days later, Weaver came out. He was tried and acquitted of all charges except for failure to appear.

The Siege at Waco

The next year, the ATF had a similar situation in Waco, Texas, where they were investigating a religious group known as the Branch Davidians. Here, the ATF (according to many accounts) was more interested in performing for television cameras than they were in enforcing the law. They used aggressive policing tactics against a group of people who had not been convicted of – or even formally charged with – any crime. The final result was a 51-day siege, at the end of which 82 Branch Davidians (including women and children) were gunned down or burned to death.

Each of these events was directly cited by Timothy McVeigh as radicalizing for him on his road to attacking the federal building at Oklahoma City, stating:

“I chose to bomb a federal building because such an action served more purposes than other options. Foremost the bombing was a retaliatory strike; a counter-attack for the cumulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years (including, but not limited to, Waco). From the formation of such units as the FBI’s Hostage Rescue and other assault teams amongst federal agencies during the 80s, culminating in the Waco incident, federal actions grew increasingly militaristic and violent, to the point where at Waco, our government – like the Chinese – was deploying tanks against its own citizens.”

Expanded Powers Post-9/11

Unsurprisingly, the ATF was rewarded for its indiscretions with broader police powers post-9/11, when any three-letter alphabet agency was basically given carte blanche to run roughshod over the civil rights of American citizens. This included an expanded jurisdiction over fuels used in amateur rocketry.

It’s worth briefly noting that the ATF (actually the BATFE, as their agents are quick to tell anyone who will listen) has a bit of a chip on its shoulder because there is a perception that the agency is made up of FBI rejects. The ATF tends to not cooperate with the FBI, something people hoped would end when the ATF was moved from Treasury to Justice. But the so-called “battle of the badges” continues. Each wants to investigate terrorist attacks involving explosives, and there are no clear federal guidelines about which gets which.

The Harassment of Gun Show Buyers and Sellers

Starting in May 2004 and ending (as far as we know) in August 2005, the ATF worked with local police in Richmond, VA, to harass and intimidate otherwise legal gun buyers. People at eight different gun shows were approached by officers and discouraged from buying guns. Gun salesmen were targeted, interrogated, and accused of doing business without a license. Buyers were detained without charge and had their homes visited by ATF agents – all for exercising a Constitutionally protected right. An ATF letter demanded the appearance of buyers to appear before the ATF and explain their purchases. Soon after, the ATF visited the homes of buyers from a Pittsburgh, PA gun show, demanding to see their papers for purchases and arresting those who refused to comply.

All of this was just the lead up to Operation Gunrunner, better known as the Fast and Furious Scandal, an official policy of allowing certain illegal weapons purchases to go through between 2006 and 2011. It led to the deaths of a Border Patrol Agent and some of the weapons in question were even used in a terrorist attack.

The Baiting of Hmong Refugees

One of the more disgusting ATF escapades post-9/11 was right out of their old entrapment handbook: They baited a bunch of Hmong refugees from the Communist regime in Laos into buying illegal weapons over a period of years. It’s worth noting that these men were hardly hardened revolutionary militants. In many cases, they were elderly and infirm men. Even the prosecution admits that their stated goal was not to overthrow the Communist government in Laos but to arm the native Hmong to protect themselves.

Charges were eventually dropped when a judge told the feds they had no case. But the whole ordeal lasted almost four years and cost tens of millions of dollars. The defendants saw deteriorating health throughout the case – imagine your father or grandfather having to deal with a dubious criminal prosecution in his advancing age.

The Entrapment of Mentally Disabled Teenagers

Have you heard about the ATF entrapping mentally disabled teenagers and coercing them into getting neck tattoos? You read that right, the ATF opened up a fake head shop that it used for (what else?) entrapment. In this case, a 19-year-old mentally disabled drug addict was manipulated by agents into getting the logo for a shill business tattooed on his neck. This was allegedly to keep him from finding out that he was unwittingly informing for the government, a defense so stupid that a federal judge repeatedly and pointedly asked the ATF to explain how suggesting that someone else get a neck tattoo was a method of preventing agents from blowing their cover.

The ATF was ordered by a judge to pay for the removal of the tattoo. But this was apparently not the only example of the ATF using what it euphemistically refers to as a “low IQ informant” – there was another case earlier that same year, with another shill business.

Part of the problem with the ATF is that the right-hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. For example, a Bureau audit in September 2008, found that the ATF had waylaid no less than 76 weapons and 418 laptop computers.

Just How Bad Is the ATF?

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveIt’s no surprise to our readers that we’re not the biggest fans of federal alphabet agencies. So one might be tempted to ask exactly what the big deal is about the ATF. Why single them out for criticism?

The ATF is a unique corrupt federal alphabet agency. Indeed, the Trump Administration has gone so far as to cut the organization’s funding. This is part of a broader mood that the ATF is unique among federal alphabet agencies. While there’s rarely a thirst in Washington to scale back federal police powers, the ATF is so controversial even within the halls of official power, that the executive branch – of all places – has looked for ways to constrain it.

The complaints about the ATF are not by any means limited to civilians who they have wronged. As an example, the ATF received 400 employee complaints within one two-year period. This is an astounding number of complaints for an organization that only has 5,000 employees.

What’s more, internal agents who complain are often subjective to punitive measures within the agency, meaning that what resources aren’t being spent on entrapping citizens are being used to persecute what slim opposition to corruption exists within the organization – so how much of their time and money are they using to lock up bad guys?

Indeed, the ATF has been accused of making threats of rape and murder against ATF agents and their families when those agents make good faith reports of corruption and misconduct within the organization. Much of the corruption from the perspective of ATF agents acting in good faith and their families can be found at Clean Up ATF and their forums, a website that we highly encourage people to check out.

The astonishing thing is the sheer volume of complaints ranging from petty corruption to reprisals against agents seeking reform to sexual misconduct and beyond. We take no stance on whether or not each and every accusation against the ATF is accurate. Nor do we take the stance of “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” However, drilling down and looking at the individual complaints, and evaluating each on their own merit, will likely lead you to rather sinister conclusions about the ATF.

What Does the ATF Really Do With Your Form 4473?

Federal Form 4473, also known as the Firearms Transaction Record, is well known to everyone who has ever purchased a firearm. You think that after you fill that out, it goes to some kind of ultra-secure ATF repository – but absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the form just sits wherever you bought it until the company goes out of business, at which time it’s transferred to the ATF at long last.

What this means is that the Form 4473 is not only insecure but basically a form of kabuki similar to the security theater people undergo every time they go through an airport. Finding the document is just about impossible, even when they have a suspect or a weapon. It’s the ultimate needle in a haystack problem, with as many as 70 phone calls required for the average trace. A single big-box retailer might send in as many as 50,000 for one moderately busy location closing.

Of course, there is always another sinister aspect to such intrusions: Grooming us all for an increasingly obvious police state.

The Beltway Sniper case presents an illustrative example: There the ATF went out and collected every Form 4473 from all of Maryland and Virginia. This was a precedent for future fishing expeditions, where the ATF can go out, collect as many forms as they want with dubious legal standing, and now have de facto gun registrations for everyone that they collected forms about.

The ATF Slush Fund: Is the ATF a Rogue Agency?

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveThe answer to this question very much depends on what one means. So what do we mean when we ask if the ATF is a rogue agency?

Simply put, we mean: Is the ATF even beholden to the federal government and our elected officials? Is there accountability? The answer is… kind of.

It’s worth noting again that the ATF has had its budget first frozen, which is an effective budgetary cut, then explicitly cut. What’s more, we discussed the Senate investigations of the early 1980s above. And each of the scandals we have covered elsewhere on the website (Ruby Ridge in 1993, Waco in 1994, and Operation Gunrunner in 2010) have had their own investigations. But we think there is one scandal not covered here that is particularly damning when considering whether or not the ATF is a rogue agency.

Over the course of several years, the ATF built up a slush fund that was used without Congressional or executive oversight through a rather unlikely revenue stream: Cigarettes.

Anyone who knows anything about organized crime knows that, silly as it may sound, illegally selling cigarettes is still big business. There’s still a lot of money to be made out of knocking over a truck carrying cigarettes, then selling them well below market value and without paying any of the relevant taxes. This, indeed, is one of the things the ATF is actually supposed to be looking into – if you remember, this was one of their first assignments.

The New York Times uncovered this operation in February 2017. And at first, it looked like a few bad apples in one office. However, what the Times found was that this was a nationwide operation based out of the Bristol, VA office. Anytime an agent wanted money for an operation, they didn’t go through the official channels of power. They simply called the Bristol office, which had tons of money thanks to their partnership with a cigarette wholesaler.

Unsurprisingly, the slush fund was not only spent on investigative expenses. Two informants were paid a whopping $6 million each – good work if you can get it. One agent, in particular, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on real estate, electronics and donations to his church and children’s sports teams. Other purchases included a $21,000 NASCAR suite and a trip to Las Vegas.

Mixing private and public funds is highly illegal. The ATF, at long last, acknowledges that there was no legal justification for the slush fund. But again, this was not a rogue field office or rogue agents: ATF headquarters was openly steering agents to the Bristol office whenever they needed money for something. There were no prosecutions, Congress was kept in the dark, and the Justice Department went out of their way to cover for those involved. This abuse of funds is nothing special – civil asset forfeiture funds are frequently misused. However, the difference is how the funds were acquired.

Tens of millions moved through the bank account in question before it was shut down in 2013. No one knows exactly how much money was involved, because no one was keeping track.

How the ATF Slush Fund Worked

This slush fund bears special examination because it is an example of the ATF as a rogue agency, not one that is “simply” corrupt in the same way as other federal alphabet agencies. Worthy of note is the manner in which headquarters facilitated the use of the slush fund, but also how it began and how it operated on a day-to-day basis.

Thomas Lesnak was a well-liked ATF agent. Affable, he was generally thought of as a “good cop.” He had the groundbreaking idea that the ATF would catch cigarette smugglers, not by setting up front companies, but by working with an actual, existing company.

The ATF agents allowed Big South Wholesale to conduct illegal cigarette sales so that the ATF could then catch smugglers and their customers who often paid in illegal weapons and stolen goods. This is very similar to Operation Gunrunner in that the ATF allowed legitimate businesses to commit crimes so that they could track criminals based on these purchases.

This was already illegal. That’s because undercover operations have a series of protocols designed to ensure transparency. Undercover operations are supposed to run entirely on government money so that there can be government oversight of how the money is being spent. In this case, the money was largely put into a personal account owned by the owner of Big South Wholesale. The spending out of this account, which Congress didn’t even know about, was controlled by Lesnak.

What the money was spent on could be an article all by itself. Credit cards, a fleet of luxury cars, vending machines with hidden cameras, and the personal American Express bills of ATF agents were just some of the perks of working for the ATF and being in the know about this fund. It was a long list as one might expect from an account that ran into the tens of millions.

It gets worse. One of the requirements of keeping this slush fund on the hush-hush meant that the ATF always needed guilty pleas. What this meant in practice was that the ATF was bribing suspects to plead guilty. One defendant testified that he was paid $100 cash monthly, plus the rent on his house while he was in jail, plus a first-class plane ticket to plead guilty to charges.

It wasn’t government whistleblowers who uncovered the scheme, either: U.S. Tobacco thought something was amiss and decided to look into it. They were then informed that the ATF was running their own private lemonade stand out of the warehouse. They raided it and sued the nominal owners for $24 million. The target of their biggest investigation, Paraguayan tobacco company Tabesa, had their own become President of Paraguay.

When notified, the ATF didn’t do anything. No one was prosecuted or even reprimanded. Lesnak retired soon afterward, presumably with a full pension.

It’s easy to get angry at the corruption of the ATF, and with good reason. But what might get lost in the legitimate indignation of a federal alphabet agency profiting off of cigarette smuggling is that the bad guys got away.

Cigarette smuggling admittedly sounds a little silly, but it is often done as part of money laundering operations for much more serious crimes. Not only did the ATF do something highly illegal, they also let other actual criminals get away. There’s a lot more going on here than a simple case of “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”

Who Watches the Watchmen?

The ATF is a classic example of what happens when a federal alphabet agency is given increasing police powers with no meaningful oversight. In the case of the ATF, it’s resulted in a whole lot of crime.

There is also the small question of to what degree the activities of the ATF are Constitutionally protected. While this is an open question for a number of federal alphabet agencies (especially in the era of Congress largely delegating its legislative powers to bureaucracies), it is an especially sharp question with regard to firearms, which are Constitutionally protected in a way that, for example, recreational drugs are not.

The ATF goes out of its way to avoid Congressional oversight in a manner that is more similar to the CIA than it is the DEA or the FBI.

Weaponizing the ATF

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveIt’s not news that gun grabbers have been ineffective at achieving their goals through the regular legislative process. There’s simply no appetite in American politics for a large-scale gun ban or even firearms registration. Every time they attempt it, the attempt falls flat and they’re back to, for example, trying to get payment systems to refuse services to gun owners and weapons retailers.

However, there is a more troubling avenue that gun grabbers are beginning to take. Following up on the recent love affair of leftist liberals with the CIA and the FBI (anyone old enough to remember the Bush Administration, remembers when the NPR set considered these to be tyrannical and Orwellian institutions), the Democratic Party is now looking to the ATF to do what it cannot do through the legislature: Take people’s guns away and send a chilling effect over the gun market.

The “Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act” stands in the great American legislative tradition of duplicitously Orwellian bill names. While it mostly just stands to make already illegal activity even more illegal, it has some rather chilling provisions that include closer ATF oversight of gun dealers, stiffer penalties for falsified forms (remember that the ATF is mostly going after people making honest mistakes), ATF discretion when it comes to granting gun licenses, and allowing the ATF to demand certain dealers conduct physical inventories.

It is worth raising the question of what might happen with the ATF under an aggressively anti-Second Amendment administration and Congress. Imagine, if you will, what the Obama Administration with the 111th Congress might look like in today’s far more polarized landscape. This was when the Democrats had a significant majority in both houses of Congress, as well as a friendly rubber stamp in the White House. What would such a government do with the ATF?

Nothing good.

Whither the ATF?

In 2014, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, proposed disbanding the ATF entirely, giving its duties to more general law enforcement agencies. Those related to weapons, arson, explosives, and terrorism would be given to the FBI. Those related to alcohol and tobacco smuggling would be handed off to the DEA. Congress failed to act on his bill. He introduced the bill again the next year and was met with similar results. Sensenbrenner did not mince words:

“The ATF is a largely duplicative, scandal-ridden agency that lacks a clear mission… it is plagued by backlogs, funding gaps, hiring challenges and a lack of leadership. For decades it has been branded by high-profile failures. There is also significant overlap with other agencies. … Without a doubt, we can fulfill the role of the ATF more efficiently.”

While nothing ever came of this, the Trump Administration began attempting to strip the alcohol and tobacco responsibilities from the agency. This is part of a more general attempt by Republican officials to, in the words of a Mother Jones article “kneecap the ATF.”

We should be so lucky. The ATF is a rogue organization with a dubious Constitutional mandate. This is not a position of the anarchist-libertarian extreme, but one that anyone with the evidence in front of them and a lick of common sense could come to.