Fake News, Partisan News, and the Wiretapping Story

I don’t know why I’m surprised anymore, given how many crazy things Donald Trump has said and done. But I was surprised when I read about Trump’s claims that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump’s communications at Trump Tower prior to the election. Even if we imagine that there’s anything to these accusations, the manner in which Trump made them—in the same early-morning stream-of-consciousness Tweeting in which he discussed rumors about The Apprentice television show—is astonishing.

In tracking down details about the wiretapping story, we can also learn some lessons about fake news, partisan spin, and the difficulty of learning the relevant facts of such a story. Continue reading “Fake News, Partisan News, and the Wiretapping Story”

Trump’s Joint Session Speech: Good and Bad

Whatever we might say about the policies that Donald Trump discussed during his February 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, we can grant that Trump sounded more like a statesman than he has in the past.

Trump opened by condemning the recent vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, the threats against Jewish centers, and the attack on two Indian men in Kansas—apparently ethnically motivated—that left one dead. He stressed common American values and invoked optimism about America’s future. He highlighted some American heroes, including a disease survivor, a succeeding schoolgirl, people in law enforcement, and fallen Navy operator Ryan Owens. In all, it was a presidential speech.

Policy-wise, Trump’s speech was a mixed bag from the standpoint of liberty, as expected. Continue reading “Trump’s Joint Session Speech: Good and Bad”

What’s Wrong with Conservatism

Conservatism is concerned with conserving (keeping or preserving) something; it shares the same root as conservation. The question, then, is what is the something that a conservative is trying to conserve?

Today’s American conservative movement is a hodgepodge largely of mercantilist racial nationalism and religious fundamentalism, as manifest in the political marriage of Donald Trump and Mike Pence and their supporters. But conservatism has taken many forms. Conservatism at its best looks to the Enlightenment principles of America’s founding—but then it is not, as I point out, fundamentally conservative. Continue reading “What’s Wrong with Conservatism”

Can Capitalists and Leftists Find Common Liberal Ground?

Recently I wondered if a rag-tag and informal “Reason-Rights Coalition”—made up of assorted atheists, skeptics, religious secularists, Objectivists, libertarians, and civil libertarians—could jointly support a culture of reason (in an era of fake news and “alternative facts”), a pro-human orientation, freedom of speech, secular institutions, and related values.

I continue to think that this nascent coalition already exists, albeit informally, and advances various shared values. I hope that drawing attention to it will encourage people in it (or potentially in it) to promote each others’ relevant work and to open up new lines of discussion with each other. Put simply, we need each other in this dangerous era, and we can learn from each other. Continue reading “Can Capitalists and Leftists Find Common Liberal Ground?”

Johan Norberg Celebrates Human Progress

Are things generally getting better or worse? We routinely hear that the environment is going to hell, that inequality is damaging people’s lives, that the next disaster is just around the bend. But does such doom-and-gloom handwringing have any connection to reality?

In his latest book Progress (Oneworld 2016), Johan Norberg discusses ten key ways in which the human condition has gotten spectacularly better. Continue reading “Johan Norberg Celebrates Human Progress”

A Liberty Activist Reflects on the Denver Trump Protest

Yesterday I went with a couple of friends to the Women’s March on Denver, where crowds reached around 100,000 people. The march was one of over 600 “sister marches” to coincide with the march in Washington, DC, and overall these marches drew around 5 million people worldwide. Continue reading “A Liberty Activist Reflects on the Denver Trump Protest”