Learn the Truth: Liberty Classroom


“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson

Naturally, as a teacher, you would all expect me to emphasize the importance of learning. My career is built on just such an emphasis.

Most of us also understand that a huge problem is that many sources for historical information are skewed. Textbooks are framed in a politically correct, if historically incorrect, understanding of the world that pushes an agenda supporting the progressive movement (the movement that looks to government, mainly central, as the key to social and economic progress). Why else would you find textbooks explaining the 2nd Amendment as established primarily for self-defense in an unruly countryside where an effective state-sponsored police force had not yet been established? (It was established to deter government from becoming tyrannical. They didn’t need an amendment to the federal Constitution to protect gun ownership for the sake of self-defense; that was a given. They would only need the 2nd Amendment if they were concerned about the nature of power as inherently susceptible to abuse and tyranny. And now I’m getting off on a tangent…)

As many of you know, the 2nd Amendment is an easy rally point for conservatives, and most in my experience understand it.

But that’s only the beginning. Textbooks—even many conservative ones, if you can find them—teach that the Gilded Age monopolies were bad and government regulation fixed that.

They teach that child labor was the result of capitalism gone awry and government bans on child labor saved our children from terrible deaths in the factories.

They teach that World War I was the great war for democracy, and that without U.S. entry with the Allies, the world would have descended into greater depravity.

They teach us that without government inspection of our food, we’d all be living to the ripe old age of 43.

False. False. False. False.

Yes, I know for some of you, that seems like a pretty bold case to be made.

I’ve spent the last several years using what little “free” time I have to study and learn history, economics and political policy—I’ve committed hundreds of hours to studying.

“Well, you’re a history and government teacher. Of course, you would,” comes the reply.

Well, yes. You do have a point.

Stick with me for a minute? The fact of the matter is, especially in light of a presidential election year, our understanding of these topics is very important. Do we really understand the implications of the candidates’—and now, specifically—Trump’s policies (the ones he has clarified)? The fact of the matter is, there are so many subtly (and no so subtly) taught misconceptions and bold-faced fallacies.

The best place I have found for true, substantial learning of this material is Liberty Classroom.


Courses Preview (see full list below)

Do not think Liberty Classroom is a gimmick. If you ask my wife, I tend to be very tight-fisted; I don’t spend money easily. I spent months of debating it and four hours of research before buying a $60 mp3 player. So I promote Liberty Classroom boldly and without reservation. It has been one of the best educational expenditures I have ever made (yes, I did go to college).

The teachers on Liberty Classroom are not just bloggers with passion (yes, I am aware of what I just said). They have Ph.D. level education (some have multiple Ph.D.’s) and years—if not decades—of teaching experience in universities and elsewhere. They are experts in their fields.

Courses List (more courses added regularly)

Courses List (more courses added regularly)

They cover a myriad of topics. Tom Woods’, himself having a Ph.D. in History and years of teaching experience at the college level before spending the recent decades in educating the public through books (he is a New York Times bestselling author), speeches and other content (like Liberty Classroom), has been forging this online learning source with accuracy and professionalism.

Yes, this is a plug…as if you didn’t notice! This weekend, November 25 (today) – Monday, November 28, Liberty Classroom is offering their best prices of the year: $5.16 a month for Basic Membership (though you pay in lump sum) if you buy today, and then just $5.42 a month through Monday night. You probably spend more on just Netflix, just Spotify or just Redbox in a month—for entertainment. Can I suggest you spend less than Netflix for some of the best education in history, government and economics that you could get (with the goal of keeping my integrity, I say that whole-heartedly).

And I also know that some of you will think it’s going to be Libertarian Party activism like that exposed by media. False, again. Entirely false. To repeat, the teaching here is professional and the professors are experts on their sources and subjects.

I do earn commission on this, but I’d promote it even if I didn’t (yes, yes; they all say that). If you know me, however, you know that I certainly would not promote something unless I was really behind it.

Check out and sign up for Liberty Classroom through my affiliate link here (or click the “Join Now” image below to take you to their home page; just scroll down on the home page for the three levels of membership and pricing).

And for your viewing pleasure,  below is a favorite video of Tom Woods in his “Interview with a Zombie” on his book and the issue of nullification, followed by his promotional video of Liberty Classroom.

Remember: BEST PRICES today! Discounted prices END MONDAY NIGHT. Click here:

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Thanksgiving in Perspective

hith-pilgrims-eMany of us were raised with a romanticized rendition of the story of the Pilgrims, a story that still brings back my childhood memories of Indians and Pilgrims placing fish in the ground with corn seeds, smiling and gathering around a large table with the cornucopia and all the trimmings that adorn Thanksgiving tables today. (There are many misconceptions about the “first thanksgiving” that I am not going to be addressing. A fellow blogger has done an excellent job of that here: “The First Thanksgiving?“)

And while it wasn’t the first thanksgiving celebration ever to be celebrated, and romanticized exaggerations aside, most of us haven’t the faintest idea what it would have been like. Finding themselves increasingly at odds with the Anglican clergy and legal system in England, the small group of Separatists had moved from Scrooby, England to Holland, where they found themselves remarkably accepted. Nevertheless, opportunities for making a living were somewhat limited, the lure of Dutch culture for very conservative English was a presumed threat from parents, and the outbreak of the 30 Years’ War threatened Holland with another invasion from Catholic Spain.

So they left again.

This time, to settle just south of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam at the mouth of the Hudson River (modern-day New York). Still, the land they hoped to settle on was still within what was claimed as British Virginia.

When a plane takes us across the Atlantic in four to five hours, we can’t fathom weeks of sea travel amidst the tempestuous whims of the weather.

When our legal systems protect our expressions of faith, by and large, we can’t imagine what it was like to have to meet in secret for not sharing the common denominational association as the church prescribed by king and parliament.

When we drive five minutes to pick up as much food as we can eat—and then some—for any meal, let alone Thanksgiving, we have no hope of empathy with those who only ate what they themselves planted, nurtured and harvested.

When we can “bump up the heat” because we’re uncomfortably cold at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, there is not a chance that we can put ourselves in the shoes of those who lived exposed to the cold and knew that it may well take their lives.

When we can run to the clinic for a quick diagnosis and cure, lost to our memory is a time when a simple flu could just as likely kill as not.

In 1620, 102 Pilgrims landed in what would later become Massachusetts, five-hundred miles off-course, in land not particularly claimed by anyone. Given poor conditions, they couldn’t sail right up the coast a little ways to New Amsterdam for supplies.

That first winter, 45 people died.

At your family gathering this Thanksgiving, imagine half dead in 6 months. I apologize for the morbidity, but I am guessing you can’t. I can’t. Or, at least, I won’t.

So maybe instead of that disheartening image, understand that we are far more blessed than we can ever imagine. We have a standard of living that far exceeds any other known to any other group—poor, middle class or rich—in the history of the world.

The Pilgrims understood thankfulness. Do we?the_first_thanksgiving_cph-3g04961

A series of studies published in what has been known as the Happiness Literature conducted in recent years shows something that might otherwise be considered common sense: that people become accustomed to their standard of living, and that becomes a baseline for expectation. In essence: we become accustomed to what we have, and take it profoundly for granted.

So how can we be thankful? It has to do with expectations.

Thankfulness can only be truly derived from accurate expectations and accurate perspective. If I expect to be fed well on Thanksgiving Day, my thankfulness for that meal will be nominal. All the more if I expect it will be provided to me because I deserve it.

True thankfulness understands our blessings in perspective.

Much-needed perspective.

In December of 1621, Edward Winslow was able to write, “by the goodness of God, we are so far from want….” Ninety natives joined the Pilgrims for three days of feasting. Almost every single person there had lost someone–more probably several–they loved in the previous year. And yet, they were thankful. Let me rephrase: therefore, they were thankful. They understood the true blessing of what they had.

cornucopiaDo we?

Addendum: Let me make one more observation, if I may. Thankfulness reveals more about a person’s character than many other expressions or attitudes. Gratefulness is an attitude of maturity.

May you and yours have a blessed and thoughtful Thanksgiving.

(Don’t have time to read it? Enjoy the audio below. And please forgive small hiccups; this is my first time to record a post.)

Middle East Conflict–Part 3: Roots of Modern Radical Islamic Movements

The last two posts of the Middle East have offered a bird’s eye view of the political development of the Middle East since the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. In this post, I’ll continue to build the modern narrative toward current Western intervention by highlighting key events that led to the rise of radical Islamic groups such as Al-Qaeda (and its offshoot, ISIS).

First, a quick recap: After the division of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations divided the Middle East (and North Africa) into protectorate states under the jurisdiction of France and England under the condition that these protectorate states (or mandates) would earn independence as they learned to rule themselves. After World War II, Britain and France largely withdrew from the region, leaving unstable civilian governments in place, governments that were replaced in rapid succession after the Israeli War of Independence (1947-8) by secular military dictatorships. This is the time period during which Hafez al-Assad, Muammar Gadhafi, and others came into power.

And while local and national politics are, of course, more detailed and complex, this bird’s eye view is sufficient for our purposes.

The decades following these new regimes (roughly from the 1960s and 1970s to the 1990s and 2000s) were characterized by continued authoritarian rule, the silencing of political opposition, economic stagnation, political corruption related to the oil industry, and suppression of minority groups or ethnicities.

These conditions, quite understandably, fueled opposition movements against the regimes in place. These opposition movements, very broadly speaking, fell into two main veins: secular opposition and radical opposition. Secular opposition was, for the dictators, much easier to control and silence; they did not gain much support from a largely Islamic population, and accusations of atheism were far more effective in keeping larger numbers from joining.

The other opposition vein, Islamic radicalism, however, began to see considerable growth, especially in the late 1990s. In countries across the Middle East, revolts spiked against the dictatorial regimes, largely without success for the time being. What drove and fueled these revolts?

In addition to the conditions described above and the very fact that the dictatorships were largely secular, American culture had begun to show up in cities. American rock music and secular culture, mostly permitted under the regimes of the time, was an easy rhetorical target for Islamic fundamentalists who saw this as a gross violation of their beliefs, and those who felt the same were often drawn into their rhetoric. The fundamentalists and their more extreme counterpart, the radicals, advocated a return to their own form of Shari’a Law.

But such movements had much more dangerous roots; these were not the only reasons for the increase in the Islamic fervor. Let me walk you through a number of events crucial to understanding the current chaos the Middle East.

Many radical groups could point to direct U.S. intervention that had already operated in nearby Iran (Persia). And that takes us back to a very important story in our understanding of the Middle East…

We’ve so far neglected Iran, as it wasn’t a part of the Ottoman Empire (it had been at one point, but not by 1914) and, therefore, not a mandate created from its demise. After World War I, the British began to invest heavily in Iran for a couple of reasons. First, it served as an important buffer zone between the increasingly powerful Soviet Empire just to the north and the very valuable British colony of India (which at that time included what is modern-day Pakistan). Second, the British established a very lucrative oil industry on the Gulf of Persia.

There is a very important distinction that needs to be addressed in a later post: that Iran (and more than 50% of Iraq) is heavily Shi’ite (or Shi’a), while much of the rest of the Middle East adhere to the Sunni tradition. This makes Iran a natural enemy of Sunni regimes, such as Saudi Arabia. That particular distinction would fuel conflict between Iran and Sadam Hussein’s Sunni government. But that needs to be left for later development.

In any case, Iran was becoming increasingly democratic and secular throughout much of the 20th Century, especially after 1920 and a civil war at that same time. Although ruled by a Shah (king), a parliament and its chosen Prime Minister were gaining popularity and influence. A key reason for this was anger fueled against the Shah who, in the 1920s, sold all Iranian oil rights to Great Britain until 1993.

Mohammad Mossadegh, Prime Minister of Iran, 1953

Mohammad Mossadegh, Prime Minister of Iran, 1953

Enraged, an increasingly assertive Iranian Parliament chose as their Prime Minister in 1953, Mohammad Mossedegh, who followed up his election with the widely popular nationalization of the British oil industry operating in Iran. With British oil and imperial interests at stake, then Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, pushed the U.S. for help in operating a coup in Iran. An aggressive Allen Dulles, CIA director, and his brother, John Dulles, Secretary of State, convinced Eisenhower to “okay” the coup, which the CIA successfully operated from the U.S. Tehran embassy. They placed Mossadegh under house arrest and propped up the diminished power of the Shah.

The reasons for the U.S. operation of the coup are far more extensive than we can examine here…another item for my “to write about list.” Nevertheless, the operation marked a sharp turning point U.S.-Middle East politics. Many politicians in Iran and across the Middle East had looked to the United States as a mediator between the aggressive British and French and their own interests. Now, having the U.S. CIA as the actor in the reassertion of a very unpopular king and the arrest of a very popular Prime Minister, anti-westerners across the Middle East had a handy source of fodder for their increasingly radical rhetoric. (In Iran particularly, this growing rhetoric would result in the tumultuous backlash Revolution of 1979, resulting in the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the rise of the supreme Shi’ite leader, known as the Ayatollah, to the helm of Iranian religious and political life. All this will be covered more in depth to come.)

Okay, return with me now to the growing radical movements of the mid- to late-1990s. Differences between Shi’ites and Sunni’s aside, the U.S. intervention in Iran had already left a deeply sour taste in the mouths of many Middle Easterners for U.S. policy when U.S. secular culture began to pop up in their cities.

And yet, were the growing frustrations of Islamic fundamentalists enough to bring unity to their various groups? Not quite.

Soviet forces in Afghanistan

Soviet forces in Afghanistan

Stick with me here. There is another story that needs to be told: Afghanistan. I’m not going in depth in the history here; just relaying an important narrative. In the 1980s, for almost a decade, Soviet forces attempted a prolonged invasion of Afghanistan. Supported and armed in part by the United States (Cold War policy in the U.S. taking a front seat here), a young Saudi Arabian named Osama bin Laden was able to successfully lead a defense of Afghanistan against the Soviets, calling this defense a “holy war” (jihad) on behalf of fundamentalist Islam.

Encouraged and emboldened by his success against the U.S.S.R., bin Laden quickly re-oriented his powerful and radical Islamic military—Al-Qaeda—to, as Professor Khater states, “recreate an Islamic state that would unite the Islamic world and replace secular or quasi-Islamic governments.”

Sadam Hussein (1980s)

Sadam Hussein (1980s)

Yet, the story is even more complicated. Another key event played a role in turning Al-Qaeda and other groups against the U.S. and not just against secular Middle Eastern governments: the First Iraq War of 1990-1991. Again, not a narrative I can expound on here, the operation of U.S. troops against the Iraqi army under Sadam Hussein (the same army the U.S. had supported against the Ayatollah of Iran in the 1980s!) was more rhetorical fodder against the U.S. Not only that, but in an often forgotten piece of foreign policy, the U.S. military bombed targets in Iraq during the late 1990s.

And pieces of the puzzle start to come together. Al-Qaeda was either directly or indirectly involved in radical revolts across Middle Eastern countries in the 1990s, all of which were unsuccessful. So in 1998, feeding on an already strong anti-American sentiment growing throughout the Middle East, Osama bin Laden openly stated his intended plans and call to arms:

“…the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples… in compliance with God’s order, we issue the follow fatwa to all Muslims: The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilian and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim…We—with God’s help—call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it…” (quoted in Sources in the History of the Modern Middle East by Akram Fouad Khater, pages 365-365).

al4Are you beginning to see the complexities of the Middle East situation? And this only leaves further questions: what about U.S. involvement in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s? How did the U.S. alliance with the Saudi royal family come about? Why did the U.S. invade Iraq?

Yes, I know I cannot fully flesh out the material. A book, perhaps, would be a better project for that, than a blog. But perhaps I can continue to shed a bit of light on the current situation…?

So what does all this have to do with Syria? Indirectly, everything. The same radical movements that began in the 1990s continue to feed on similar fuel today. ISIS, a breakoff from Al-Qaeda, operates with the same goal of a unified Islamic Caliphate. U.S. operations in Iraq in 2001 and onward only complicated matters extensively, resulting in further backlash and entangled alliances. More on all of that to follow.

(Too busy to read this? Listen below! Please forgive the small issues; I am new to recording myself as I read.)


Middle East Conflict–Part 2: Protectorates to Military Rule

In the last post, I offered clarity on the nature of the Middle East prior to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In this part, we’ll continue that narrative from the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire to the creation of individual, if somewhat complicated modern-like states.

After the Young Turks—a political movement that sought stronger ties to Europe and pushed for a modernized Turkey—was able to bring the Ottoman government under its control in 1908, they followed up with their program by eventually signing a military alliance with Germany. I don’t have time to get into all the reasons for that particular decision here, nor is that particularly relevant to our discussion, but they hoped a favorable outcome in the war would give them greater influence on the world stage, and longstanding conflict with the Russians was certainly a part of their decision.

Whatever the reasons, the results proved catastrophic for the empire, and the once large and powerful Ottoman Empire came to an end. In Paris in 1919, among the number of treaties forced on the losers of the war by the Allies* was the Treaty of Sévres, the treaty made with the Ottomans.

Under the treaty terms, Turkey would be left with most of Anatolia. The vast majority of the remainder of Ottoman territory would become League Mandates—essentially, protectorate states of the newly created League of Nations. In practice, this meant that Britain and France would govern these territories. So what were these territories?


Ethnic groups in the Middle East (I am aware you can’t read the key; a quick Google search will turn this or a similar map up)

Hold that thought for a moment. Remember how complicated the Middle East was? The region is awash in various ethnicities. To name a few: Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Azeri, Arabs, Jews, Persians, et cetera. This is only on the broad level, as within each of these and the other ethnicities are different groups that can be more and more localized. In additional to ethnic differences were vast arrays of cultural differences region by region and even village by village, differences hard to perceive to westerners observing through media reports. Also, there were key religious differences, differences beyond the standard three thought of by those who have not studied the region: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. The most volatile of differences perhaps is between the Sunni and Shi’ite (alternatively, Shi’a) traditions of Islam, which have been in conflict since the death of Mohammad (forgive me for not expanding on this here, as I am sensitive to length).

So how do you organize such differences into protectorate states? Add onto these differences the basic understanding that the modern idea of a political state was all but a foreign concept.

mandateNevertheless, the League of Nations (again, mostly the British and French) set about drawing up borders and labeling the regions within them. And each new protectorate was promised independence as soon as it had learned how to self-govern. That was the mandate in the Treaty of Sévres.

In essence, modern political states—or nations (in our context)—had to be invented.

And so the protectorate states of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan (later to be renamed Jordan), Iraq, et cetera, came into existence. In Syria, my ultimate direction with this background, the Syrian people group (versus the Kurds, Assyrians or Arabs), having gained the name of their nation, quickly assumed that the nation must be mostly Syrian—that Syrian must be the “national” ethnic group. The same in Lebanon, Transjordan, and so forth. In rich sarcasm, there is but little alternative conclusion: what can go wrong? The politics that followed the dismembering of the Ottoman Empire varied state to state, but a general trend can be observed: dominant groups within each nation thought the country was uniquely theirs, as I said before. A tribal mentality among the leaders would be more and more resented by other tribes and groups, before military dictatorships would ultimately come into power. But I get ahead of myself.

Some protectorate states, such as Palestine and Iraq, were put under British control, and others, such as Syria and Transjordan, came under French jurisdiction. Both nations maintained relatively strict control over their mandates (the French more so than the British), as the terms of independence had been based on the vague and open-ended condition that each nation learn to govern itself. And particularly in the case of France, the French regulators in their territories operated mostly to benefit France at the expense of the local population.

European dominance ended with World War II. Despite emerging as victors, the British economy and military apparatus could no longer support their vast colonial empire, and the French, under German control for the duration of the war, were clearly in no better a position. The Middle East mandate nations were neglected by their European overlords.

And naturally, Middle Eastern overlords filled the void. However, the process by which these overlords could come into power was rooted in the European governance system. In an effort to turn their invented states into functioning nations, the British and French had supported the creation of highly-integrated and diversified militaries. Why? Apart from the practical goal of using the military as their enforcement branch, the Europeans were attempting to build a sense of nationalism – a strong sense of nation (for example, “we are Jordanians” as more predominant than “we are Arabs”) – in a place where no such idea had previously existed. Where better than a nationalistic military made up of many different ethnicities?

And as Europeans withdrew to lick their wounds, many military dictators rose to the forefront of the political scene. Where civilian leaders were reputed to be seen as sectarian and corrupt**, military leaders boasted on their nationalistic and diversified bases.

A young Muammar Qaddafi of Libya

A young Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, one of the multiple military dictators to take control of former League Mandate countries

Still, most states were ruled by civilian governments ruled in the wake of the European withdrawal. One key event resulted in numerous military dictatorships coming to power: the Israeli War of Independence of 1947-1948. Despite massive financial and military support from Middle Eastern and North African countries all over the region, from Syria to Iraq to Saudi Arabia to Egypt, the Palestinians still ultimately lost the war, throwing nearly every nation in the area into instability. Civilian governments further lost credibility with their people, and some wanted the stability and diversity offered by military rule.

And as they did so, military commanders took over. During the 1950s and 1960s, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Algeria and Yemen all saw their governments taken over by military dictators. In Syria, the military commander Hafez al-Assad, father of the current Bashar al-Assad, took over the government***.

Hafez al-Assad

Hafez al-Assad

What did these military dictatorships look like? Contrary to the naïve opinion that they were strictly Shari’a-based, most were, in fact, mostly secular in nature. Also, most, including the government under Hafez al-Assad, were highly authoritarian (see this post for more on the basic terms) and fascist.

As expected, honeymoons celebrating the new governments were short-lived, if lived at all, and opposition was shortcoming. But with the military apparatus in place, dictators like Hafez al-Assad did not tolerate dissent, putting it down quickly and brutally. For most, when their sons or heirs took their place, the same policy continued, and does so still under Bashar al-Assad in Syria (where he still has control).

And they earned themselves the reputation they are notorious to westerners for today: strict, harsh, intolerant and powerful authoritarians. And one by one, these military dictators and their dynasties have been or are replaced. Part of the reason: what has been labeled “the Arab Spring.” Part has been due to Islamic radicalism. Finally, Western intervention, as in Iraq, Libya and now Syria, has also played a key role. But this is where the modern narrative really begins to get messy. Why and how did the U.S. and other European powers get involved in the modern state of affairs? More than that to come.


*To note, Woodrow Wilson of the U.S. had lofty goals for the Paris Peace Conference, but few points were realized; the British, French and to a lesser extent, the Italians, essentially had control of the peace terms.

**And notably, for our purposes, in Syria, where the French had not allowed indigenous populations to be involved in the government.

***Assad did not officially become Prime Minister until 1970, but moved through the ranks and worked to operate a coup in 1963. He would rule until 2000.