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Are President Trump’s senior cabinet members working against him? It’s hard not to conclude that many of the more hawkish neocons that Trump has (mistakenly, in my view) appointed to top jobs are actively working to undermine the president’s stated agenda. Especially when it seems Trump is trying to seek dialogue with countries the neocons see as adversaries needing to be regime-changed.

Remember just as President Trump was organizing an historic summit meeting with Kim Jong-Un, his National Security Advisor, John Bolton, nearly blew the whole thing up by making repeated references to the “Libya model” and how it should be applied to North Korea. As if Kim would jump at the chance to be bombed, overthrown, and murdered at the hands of a US-backed mob!

It seems that Trump’s appointees are again working at cross-purposes to him. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he was invoking a 1991 US law against the use of chemical weapons to announce yet another round of sanctions on Russia over what he claims is Putin’s involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.

The alleged poisoning took place in March and only now did the State Department make its determination that Russia was behind it and thus subject to the 1991 sanction law. Was there new information that came to light that pointed to Russian involvement? According to a State Department briefing there was none. The State Department just decided to take the British government’s word for it.

Where do we get authority to prosecute Russia for an alleged crime committed in the UK, by the way?

President Trump’s own Administration is forcing him to accept the State Department determination and agree to sanctions that may well include, according to the 1991 law, a complete break of diplomatic relations with Russia. This would be a de facto declaration of war. Over unproven allegations.

Trump has authority to reject the imposition of new sanctions, but with his Democrat opponents continuing to charge that he is in league with the Russian president, how could he waive sanctions just before the November US Congressional elections? That would be a windfall for the Democrats seeking to take control of the House and Senate.

The only way Russia could avoid the second, most extreme round of these sanctions in November is to promise not to use chemical weapons again and open its doors to international inspections. What government would accept such a demand when no proof has been presented that they used chemical weapons in the first place?

Certainly it is possible that President Trump is fully aware of the maneuverings of Bolton and Pompeo and that he approves. Perhaps he likes to play “good cop, bad cop” with the rest of the world, at the same time making peace overtures while imposing sanctions and threatening war. But it certainly looks like some of his cabinet members are getting the best of him.

If President Trump is to be taken at his word, that he welcomes dialogue “without pre-conditions” with leaders of Russia, North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere, he would be wise to reconsider those in his employ who are undermining him every step of the way. Otherwise, it is hard to believe the president is sincere. Let’s hope he does choose dialogue over conflict and clips the wings of those under him attempting to push him in the other direction.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Deep State, Donald Trump, Russia 
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You can always count on the neocons in Congress to ignore reality, ignore evidence, and ignore common sense in their endless drive to get us involved in another war. Last week, for example, Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-NC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and others joined up to introduce what Senator Graham called “the sanctions bill from hell,” aimed at applying “crushing” sanctions on Russia.

Senator Graham bragged that the bill would include “everything but the kitchen sink” in its attempt to ratchet up tensions with Russia.

Sen Cory Gardner (R-CO) bragged that the new sanctions bill “includes my language requiring the State Department to determine whether Russia merits the designation of a State Sponsor of Terror.”

Does he even know what the word “terrorism” means?

Sen Ben Cardin (D-MD) warns that the bill must be passed to strengthen our resolve against “Vladimir Putin’s pattern of corroding democratic institutions and values around the world, a direct and growing threat to US national security.”

What has Russia done that warrants “kitchen sink” sanctions that will “crush” the country and possibly designate it as a sponsor of terrorism? Sen. Menendez tells us: “The Kremlin continues to attack our democracy, support a war criminal in Syria, and violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

There is a big problem with these accusations on Russia: they’re based on outright lies and unproven accusations that continue to get more bizarre with each re-telling. How strange that when US Senators like Menendez demand that we stand by our NATO allies even if it means war, they attack Russia for doing the same in Syria. Is the Syrian president a “war criminal,” as he claims? We do know that his army is finally, with Russian and Iranian help, about to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda, which with US backing for seven years have turned Syria into a smoking ruin. Does Menendez and his allies prefer ISIS in charge of Syria?

And how hypocritical for Menendez to talk about Russia violating Ukraine’s sovereignty. The unrest in Ukraine was started by the 2014 US-backed coup against an elected leader. We have that all on tape!

How is Russia “attacking our democracy”? We’re still waiting for any real evidence that Russia was involved in our 2016 elections and intends to become involved in our 2018 elections. But that doesn’t stop the propagandists, who claim with no proof that Russia was behind the election of Donald Trump.

These Senators claim that sanctions will bring the Russians to heel, but they are wrong. Sanctions are good at two things only: destroying the lives of innocent civilians and leading to war.

As I mentioned in an episode of my Liberty Report last week, even our own history shows that sanctions do lead to war and should not be taken lightly. In the run-up to US involvement in the War of 1812, the US was doing business with both France and the UK, which were at war with each other. When the UK decided that the US was favoring France in its commerce, it imposed sanctions on the US. What did Washington do in response? Declared war. Hence the War of 1812, which most Americans remember as that time when the British burned down the White House.

Recent polls show that the majority of Americans approve of President Trump’s recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among Republicans, a vast majority support the meeting. Perhaps a good defeat in November will wake these neocon warmongers up. Let’s hope so!

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Neocons, Russia 
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President Trump’s recent Tweets expressing displeasure with the Federal Reserve’s (minor) interest rate increases led to accusations that President Trump is undermining the Federal Reserve’s independence. But, the critics ignore the fact that Federal Reserve “independence” is one of the great myths of American politics.

When it comes to intimidating the Federal Reserve, President Trump pales in comparison to President Lyndon Johnson. After the Federal Reserve increased interest rates in 1965, President Johnson summoned then-Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin to Johnson’s Texas ranch where Johnson shoved him against the wall. Physically assaulting the Fed chairman is probably a greater threat to Federal Reserve independence than questioning the Fed’s policies on Twitter.

While Johnson is an extreme example, history is full of cases where presidents pressured the Federal Reserve to adopt policies compatible with the presidents’ agendas — and helpful to their reelection campaigns. Presidents have been pressuring the Fed since its creation. President Warren Harding called on the Fed to lower rates. Richard Nixon was caught on tape joking with then-Fed chair Arthur Burns about Fed independence. And Lloyd Bentsen, President Bill Clinton’s first Treasury secretary, bragged about a “gentleman’s agreement” with then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

President Trump’s call for low interest rates contradicts Trump’s earlier correct criticism of the Fed’s low interest rate policy as harming middle-class Americans. Low rates can harm the middle class, but they also benefit spend-and-borrow politicians and their favorite special interests by lowering the federal government’s borrowing costs. Significant rate increases could make it impossible for the government to service its existing debt, thus making it difficult for President Trump and Congress to continue increasing welfare and warfare spending.

President Trump will have a long-lasting impact on monetary policy. Two of the three sitting members of the Fed’s board were appointed by President Trump. Two more of Trump’s nominees are pending in the Senate. The nomination of economist Marvin Goodfriend may be in jeopardy because Goodfriend advocates “negative interest rates,” which is a Federal Reserve-imposed tax on savings. If Goodfriend is defeated, President Trump can just nominate another candidate. President Trump will also be able to nominate two other board members. Therefore, by the end of his first term, President Trump could appoint six of the Federal Reserve’s seven board members.

The specter of a Federal Reserve Board dominated by Trump appointees should cause some to rethink the wisdom of allowing a secretive central bank to exercise near-monopoly control over monetary policy. Fear of the havoc a Trumpian Fed could cause may even lead some to support the Audit the Fed legislation and the growing movement to allow Americans to “exit” the Federal Reserve System by using alternatives to fiat money, such as cryptocurrencies and gold.

Given the Federal Reserve’s power to help or hinder a president’s economic agenda and reelection prospects, it is no surprise that presidents try to influence Fed policy. But, instead of worrying about protecting the Fed from President Trump, we should all worry about protecting the American people from the Fed. The first step is passing the Audit the Fed bill, which Congress should do before adjourning to hit the campaign trail. This will let the people know the full truth about America’s monetary policy. Auditing, then ending, the Fed is key to permanently draining the welfare-warfare swamp.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Donald Trump, Federal Reserve 
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According to financial writer Simon Black, the federal government is spending approximately 52,000 dollars per second. This, not last year’s tax cuts, is the reason why the national debt has reached a record 21 trillion dollars, which is more than America’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Another ominous sign is that this year both Social Security and Medicare will have to draw down on their reserve funds to be able to pay benefits. The Social Security and Medicare trust funds will both soon be bankrupt, putting additional strains on the federal budget and American taxpayers.

The excessive debt caused by excessive spending will inevitably cause a major economic crisis. Yet, with a few notable exceptions, there is little to no desire in Washington to cut spending. Instead, both parties are committed to increasing spending on warfare and welfare while ignoring the looming entitlements crisis.

Examples of fiscal irresponsibility on Capitol Hill are easy to find. For instance, even though the United Stares is currently spending more on its military than the combined budgets of the next seven highest spending countries, Congress recently increased military spending by 82 billion dollars. This brings the total the US spends on a futile effort to police and democratize the world to 716 billion dollars. The US House has also recently passed a farm bill that increases spending by more than 3 billion dollars over the next five years. This bill does not take a step toward ending subsidies to wealthy farmers and even continues providing farm subsidies to non-famers! Pressure on Congress to increase spending on farm subsidies is likely to increase as famers becomes collateral damage in President Trump’s trade war.

Many progressives are attacking the House farm bill because it makes some reforms to the “SNAP” (food stamp) program, even though the House version of bill increases the budget for food stamps by at least 1.7 billion dollars over the next five years!

When the economic crisis hits, there will be no choice but to cut spending and raise taxes. Of course, Congress is unlikely to raise taxes or cut benefits. Instead, it will rely on the Federal Reserve to do the dirty work via the inflation tax. The inflation tax is the worst type of tax because it is both hidden and regressive.

One of the worst features, if not the worst, of the tax reform plan is increasing the inflation tax by authorizing the use of “chained CPI.” Chained CPI hides inflation’s effects by claiming that rising prices do not harm Americans as long as they can still afford low-cost substitute goods to replace products they can no longer afford due to the Federal Reserve’s devaluation of the currency — as if people forced to buy hamburger instead of steak are not negatively impacted by inflation.

Increasing federal debt will also put pressure on the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low to prevent federal interest payments on the debt from skyrocketing. Eventually, the Fed’s monetization of the debt will lead to hyperinflation and a rejection of the dollar’s world reserve currency status. The question is when, not whether, the welfare-warfare state and the fiat currency system will end. Hopefully, those who know the truth will succeed in growing the liberty movement so we can convince Congress to gradually unwind the welfare-warfare state, restore a true free market in money, and stop trying to run the world, run the economy, and run our lives.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Military, Government Spending 
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The term “deep state” has been so over-used in the past few years that it may seem meaningless. It has become standard practice to label one’s political adversaries as representing the “deep state” as a way of avoiding the defense of one’s positions. President Trump has often blamed the “deep state” for his political troubles. Trump supporters have created big conspiracies involving the “deep state” to explain why the president places neocons in key positions or fails to fulfill his campaign promises.

But the “deep state” is no vast and secret conspiracy theory. The deep state is real, it operates out in the open, and it is far from monolithic. The deep state is simply the permanent, unelected government that continues to expand its power regardless of how Americans vote.

There are factions of the deep state that are pleased with President Trump’s policies, and in fact we might say that President Trump represents some factions of the deep state.

Other factions of the deep state are determined to undermine any of President Trump’s actions they perceive as threatening. Any move toward peace with Russia is surely something they feel to be threatening. There are hundreds of billions of reasons – otherwise known as dollars – why the Beltway military-industrial complex is terrified of peace breaking out with Russia and will do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening.

That is why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s indictment on Friday of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for allegedly interfering in the 2016 US presidential election should immediately raise some very serious questions.

First the obvious: after more than a year of investigations which have publicly revealed zero collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, why drop this bombshell of an allegation at the end of the news cycle on the last business day before the historic Trump/Putin meeting in Helsinki? The indictment could not have been announced a month ago or in two weeks? Is it not suspicious that now no one is talking about reducing tensions with Russia but is all of a sudden – thanks to Special Counsel Robert Mueller – talking about increasing tensions?

Unfortunately most Americans don’t seem to understand that indictments are not evidence. In fact they are often evidence-free, as is this indictment.

Did the Russian government seek to interfere in the 2016 US presidential elections? It’s certainly possible, however we don’t know. None of the Justice Department’s assertions have been tested in a court of law, as is thankfully required by our legal system. It is not enough to make an allegation, as Mueller has done. You have to prove it.

That is why we should be very suspicious of these new indictments. Mueller knows he will never have to defend his assertions in a court of law so he can make any allegation he wants.

It is interesting that one of the Russian companies indicted by Mueller earlier this year surprised the world by actually entering a “not guilty” plea and demanding to see Mueller’s evidence. The Special Counsel proceeded to file several motions to delay the hand-over of his evidence. What does Mueller have to hide?

Meanwhile, why is no one talking about the estimated 100 elections the US government has meddled in since World War II? Maybe we need to get our own house in order?

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Deep State, Donald Trump, Russia 
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In May, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal despite Iran living up to its obligations and the deal working as planned. While the US kept in place most sanctions against Tehran, China and Russia – along with many European countries – had begun reaping the benefits of trade with an Iran eager to do business with the world.

Now, President Trump is threatening sanctions against any country that continues to do business with Iran. But will his attempt to restore the status quo before the Iran deal really work?

Even if the Europeans cave in to US demands, the world has changed a great deal since the pre-Iran deal era.

President Trump is finding that his threats and heated rhetoric do not always have the effect he wishes. As his Administration warns countries to stop buying Iranian oil by November or risk punishment by the United States, a nervous international oil market is pushing prices ever higher, threatening the economic prosperity he claims credit for. President Trump’s response has been to demand that OPEC boost its oil production by two million barrels per day to calm markets and bring prices down.

Perhaps no one told him that Iran was a founding member of OPEC?

When President Trump Tweeted last week that Saudi Arabia agreed to begin pumping additional oil to make up for the removal of Iran from the international markets, the Saudis very quickly corrected him, saying that while they could increase capacity if needed, no promise to do so had been made.

The truth is, if the rest of the world followed Trump’s demands and returned to sanctions and boycotting Iranian oil, some 2.7 million barrels per day currently supplied by Iran would be very difficult to make up elsewhere. Venezuela, which has enormous reserves but is also suffering under, among other problems, crippling US sanctions, is shrinking out of the world oil market.

Iraq has not recovered its oil production capacity since its “liberation” by the US in 2003 and the al-Qaeda and ISIS insurgencies that followed it.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that “a complete shutdown of Iranian sales could push oil prices above $120 a barrel if Saudi Arabia can’t keep up.” Would that crash the US economy? Perhaps. Is Trump willing to risk it?

President Trump’s demand last week that OPEC “reduce prices now” or US military protection of OPEC countries may not continue almost sounded desperate. But if anything, Trump’s bluntness is refreshing: if, as he suggests, the purpose of the US military – with a yearly total budget of a trillion dollars – is to protect OPEC members in exchange for “cheap oil,” how cheap is that oil?

At the end, China, Russia, and others are not only unlikely to follow Trump’s demands that Iran again be isolated: they in fact stand to benefit from Trump’s bellicosity toward Iran. One Chinese refiner has just announced that it would cancel orders of US crude and instead turn to Iran for supplies. How many others might follow and what might it mean?

Ironically, President Trump’s “get tough” approach to Iran may end up benefitting Washington’s named adversaries Russia and China – perhaps even Iran. The wisest approach is unfortunately the least likely at this point: back off from regime change, back off from war-footing, back off from sanctions. Trump may eventually find that the cost of ignoring this advice may be higher than he imagined.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Iran 
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President Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton was in Moscow last week organizing what promises to be an historic summit meeting between his boss and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bolton, who has for years demanded that the US inflict “pain” on Russia and on Putin specifically, was tasked by Trump to change his tune. He was forced to shed some of his neoconservative skin and get involved in peacemaking. Trump surely deserves some credit for that!

As could be expected given the current political climate in the US, the neoconservatives have joined up with the anti-Trump forces on the Left — and US client states overseas — to vigorously oppose any movement toward peace with Russia. The mainstream media is, as also to be expected, amplifying every objection to any step away from a confrontation with Russia.

Bolton had hardly left Moscow when the media began its attacks. US allies are “nervous” over the planned summit, reported Reuters. They did not quote any US ally claiming to be nervous, but they did speculate that both the UK and Ukraine would not be happy were the US and Russia to improve relations. But why is that? The current Ukrainian government is only in power because the Obama Administration launched a coup against its democratically-elected president to put US puppets in charge. They’re right to be nervous. And the British government is also right to be worried. They swore that Russia was behind the “poisoning” of the Skripals without providing any evidence to back up their claims. Hundreds of Russian diplomats were expelled from Western countries on their word alone. And over the past couple of months, each of their claims has fallen short.

At the extreme of the reaction to Bolton’s Russia trip was the US-funded think tank, the Atlantic Council, which is stuck in a 1950s time warp. Its resident Russia “expert,” Anders Åslund, Tweeted that long-time Russia hawk Bolton had been “captured by the Kremlin” and must now be considered a Russian agent for having helped set up a meeting between Trump and Putin. Do they really prefer nuclear war?

The “experts” are usually wrong when it comes to peacemaking. They rely on having “official enemies” for their very livelihood. In 1985, national security “expert” Zbigniew Brzezinski attacked the idea of a summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It was “demeaning” and “tactically unwise,” he said as reported at the time by the Washington Times. Such a meeting would only “elevate” Gorbachev and make him “first among equals,” he said. Thankfully, Reagan did engage Gorbachev in several summits and the rest is history. Brzezinski was wrong and peacemakers were right.

President Trump should understand that any move toward better relations with Russia has been already pre-approved by the American people. His position on Russia was well known. He campaigned very clearly on the idea that the US should end the hostility toward Russia that characterized the Obama Administration and find a way to work together. Voters knew his position and they chose him over Hillary Clinton, who was also very clear on Russia: more confrontation and more aggression.

President Trump would be wise to ignore the neocon talking heads and think tank “experts” paid by defense contractors. He should ignore the “never Trumpers” who have yet to make a coherent policy argument opposing the president. The extent of their opposition to Trump seems to be “he’s mean and rude.” Let us hope that a Trump/Putin meeting begins a move toward real reconciliation and away from the threat of nuclear war.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Neocons, Russia 
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Last week the United States Supreme Court, in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, ruled that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause allows state governments to force out-of-state businesses to collect state sales taxes. This decision overturns the court’s precedent that a state could require only businesses with a “physical presence” in the state to comply with state tax laws.

Unless Congress exercises its authority under the Commerce Clause to counter this decision with legislation, retailers will have to calculate sales taxes on every online purchase. An error in calculating sales taxes could cause a small retailer to undergo a costly and time-consuming audit, or even audits by multiple state governments. The compliance costs, along with the sales taxes themselves, will raise the cost of online commerce, burdening consumers and limiting the growth of internet business.

The burdens imposed on online commerce by the court’s decision will fall particularly hard on smaller internet retailers that rely on online sales to stay open. Stifling the growth of smaller and new internet retailers may be bad for consumers, but it serves the interest of large brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as large online retailers that already have to comply with state sales taxes because they have a physical presence in most states. These large businesses support giving states new taxing powers because they wish to use government power to make sure their smaller competitors stay small.

Allowing states to tax internet retailers with no physical presence in their states — and thus limited influence over state legislators — violates the principle of no taxation without representation. Tax- and power-hungry politicians will likely use this new power not just to increase taxes, but to impose other tax and regulatory burdens on out-of-state businesses. Having the power to tax and regulate employers and workers who cannot retaliate at the polls is a dream come true for many politicians. By making almost all online purchases subject to sales taxes, the decision will also reduce pressure on states to keep sales tax rates low.

The Constitution’s drafters intended the Commerce Clause to create free trade among the states, not to enable states to impose taxes and regulations on out-of-state businesses. The growth of online commerce does not change the Commerce Clause’s purpose.

Allowing state governments to force out-of-state retailers to comply with state tax laws harms small businesses, harms the growth of online commerce, and raises prices. It also benefits politicians seeking new tax revenue and helps large, politically-powerful corporations.

Congress must protect consumers, taxpayers, and small businesses by passing legislation limiting states’ ability to extend their taxing power across their borders. This would be a rare instance of Congress using its Commerce Clause powers for the intended purpose of promoting free trade among the states, not enabling the growth of government.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Taxes 
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When I was in Congress and had to regularly fly between DC and Texas, I was routinely subjected to invasive “pat-downs” (physical assaults) by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). One time, exasperated with the constant insults to my privacy and dignity, I asked a TSA agent if he was proud to assault innocent Americans for a living.

I thought of this incident after learning that the TSA has been compiling a “troublesome passengers” list. The list includes those who have engaged in conduct judged to be “offensive and without legal justification” or disruptive of the “safe and effective completion of screening.” Libertarian journalist James Bovard recently pointed out that any woman who pushed a screener’s hands away from her breasts could be accused of disrupting the “safe and effective completion of screening.” Passengers like me who have expressed offense at TSA screeners are likely on the troublesome passengers list.

Perhaps airline passengers should start keeping a list of troublesome TSA agents. The list could include those who forced nursing mothers to drink their own breast milk, those who forced sick passengers to dispose of cough medicine, and those who forced women they found attractive to go through a body scanner multiple times. The list would certainly include the agents who confiscated a wheelchair-bound three-year-old’s beloved stuffed lamb at an airport and threatened to subject her to a pat-down. The girl, who was at the airport with her family to take a trip to Disney World, was filmed crying that she no longer wanted to go to Disney World.

The TSA is effective at violating our liberty, but it is ineffective at protecting our security. Last year, the TSA’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), conducted undercover tests of the TSA’s ability or detect security threats at airports across the country. The results showed the TSA staff and equipment failed to uncover threats 80 percent of the time. This is not the first time the TSA has been revealed to be incompetent. An earlier DHS study fund TSA screenings and even the invasive pat-downs were utterly ineffective at finding hidden weapons.

The TSA’s “security theater” of treating every passenger as a criminal suspect while doing nothing to stop real threats is a rational response to the incentives the TSA faces as a government agency. If the TSA puts up an appearance of diligently working to prevent another 9/11 by inconveniencing and even assaulting as many travelers as possible, Congress will assume the agency is doing its job and keep increasing the TSA’s budget. Because the TSA gets its revenue from Congress, not from airline passengers, the agency has no reason to concern itself with customer satisfaction and feels free to harass and assault people, as well as to make lists of people who stand up for their rights.

Congress should end the TSA’s monopoly on security by abolishing the agency and returning responsibility for security to the airlines. The airline companies can contract with private firms that provide real security without treating every passenger as a criminal suspect. A private security firm that assaults its customers while failing to detect real dangers would soon go out of business, whereas the TSA would likely have its budget and power increased if there was another attack on the US.

If shutting down the TSA is too “radical” a step, Congress should at least allow individuals to sue TSA agents for assault. Anyone who has suffered unfair treatment by the TSA as a result of being put on the “troublesome passengers” list should also be able to seek redress in court. Making TSA agents subject to the rule of law is an important step toward protecting our liberty and security.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Civil Liberties, Homeland Security 
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When President Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, on October 11, 1987, it helped put into motion events that would dramatically change the global system. A line of communication was fully opened with an enemy of decades and substantive issues were on the table. Though the summit was initially reported as a failure, with the two sides unable to sign a final agreement, history now shows us that it was actually a great success that paved the way to the eventual end of the Cold War and a reduction in the threat of a nuclear war.

A year later Gorbachev and Reagan met in Washington to continue the dialogue that had been started and the rest is history. Success began as a “failure.”

We are now facing a similar situation with President Trump’s historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. As with the Reagan/Gorbachev meetings, detractors on all sides seem determined to undermine and belittle the opening of a door to diplomacy and peace.

The neocons demand that North Korea give up all its bargaining chips up front in return for vague promises of better relations with the US. Yet in the post-Libya era no serious person would jump at such an offer. Their biggest fear is that peace may break out and they are doing everything to prevent that from happening. Conflict is their livelihood.

I also find it disheartening that many Democrat opponents of President Trump who rightly cheered President Obama’s efforts to reach a deal with Iran are now condemning Trump for opening the door to diplomacy with North Korea. Did they genuinely support President Obama’s diplomatic efforts with Iran, or did they just prefer the person who happened to occupy the Oval Office at the time?

The issue is about policy versus politics and I am afraid too many Americans of all political stripes are confusing the two. Many Americans, it seems, would prefer that we continue down the path to a potentially nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula because they do not like the current US president. Does that make any sense? Has politics come to over-rule our common sense to the point we would go against our own interests and even our own lives? Let’s hope not!

The truth is, talking is always better than threatening. Just like trading is always better than sanctioning. Detractors on both sides miss the point while they desperately try to make political points. The current thaw with North Korea began with that country’s participation in the Olympic games in South Korea. From that point, North and South Korea came to see each other as neighbors rather than enemies. That process will continue regardless of what comes from the Trump/Kim summit and it is a process we should cheer.

Hopefully this historic Trump/Kim meeting is the beginning of a dialogue that will continue to dial back the tensions. Hopefully we can soon remove the 30,000 US troops that have been stationed in South Korea for seven decades. One thing Washington must do, however: stay out of the way as much as possible so as to allow the two Koreas to continue their peace process.