Censoring the Past to Make a Comfortable Present Leads to a Dark Future

This Friday, we celebrate some common sense in the defense of genuine academic freedom.

We tip our hat to Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal for taking on the clueless insanity that has manifested itself at Columbia University’s student paper. The paper penned an op-ed recently decrying western classical literature as

Triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.

In the styling of the inner party of Orwell’s 1984, liberal students winding through the halls of academia (and liberals and progressive statists in general)  seem to want thought based on emotion – how you feel in relation to an event or idea rather than worry with ages-old tried and true approaches such as…logic or reason. And this is good. Provided that you feel the same way and react the same way as your betters. (Compare “bellyfeel” and “duckspeak” from the Newspeak Dictionary.)

Noonan’s response is the serious wake up call college students need before turning over any more of their minds to The Party.

At last year’s Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference, our editor Val Muller was lucky enough to hear Aranka Siegal speak. Siegal is a Holocaust survivor and was asked to attend the conference many times before she finally agreed. Now in her eighties, Siegal was encouraged not to travel, and her family discouraged her.

When she spoke at the conference, recounting her experiences in Hungary leading up to her time in Auschwitz, she cried. When she spoke of the last time she saw her mother–as her mother stood in line for the crematorium, she cried. When she spoke of nearly starving to death, of witnessing atrocities in the kitchens, of rape and abuse and death–she cried. There was no emotional safety in sharing these memories.

And yet she emphasized to all at the conference that she thought it important enough to speak to the room of educators not because she wanted their pity, but because she did not want the past to die. As horrific as those experiences were, and as painful as it was for her to recount them again, she wanted to share the pain of history so that it would not be repeated. So that the educators in the room would share her experiences – painful as they were – with the next generation of thinkers.

Avoiding history because it brings up unpleasant memories; bleaching out words of literature because they cause pain; or eliminating literary works to make people feel better about themselves in their present state of being is cowardice and weakness. But it is far more dangerous than that.

The Columbia student paper is advocating for censorship. At first it may appear to be benign – even benevolent. Why not wipe clean the sins of the past in order to spare a few tears or unpleasant moments during our present?

But it is the future that suffers from such folly. The level of censorship of works needed to wipe the past clean enough to accommodate the hyper-sensitivities of our current time would leave the next generation incapable of experiencing texts that can teach us to distinguish good from bad.

If our only reference point for unfairness is imagined exclusion, then we might overlook things like the federal government’s blatant dishonesty in saying it will only use mass surveillance to protect us from terrorists. Meanwhile we find out that federal agencies engage in “parallel construction,” bringing criminal cases against individuals constructed with bits of information obtained illegally and without a warrant.

If our only reference point for corruption is imagining that free market entrepreneurs only amass wealth and success by stealing it from poor people, then we become immune to widespread government theft of private property through civil forfeiture where a government agency seizes cash and property without ever filing charges against an individual – leaving the legal burden on the person to take the government to court to reclaim their own property.

If our only reference point for discrimination is sloppy math and dishonest studies used to politically decry a pay gap for women and to declare a “war on women” is on, then we might miss actual discrimination whereby the US government systematically abuses its power to discriminate against political opponents of the current administration.

And all of these examples are real and happening right now in the Land of the Free. And if the public tolerates these abuses, how much longer will it be before an all-powerful government can detain (even claim to kill) US citizens without trial.  (Oh, wait, it can do that too!? Yes we can…says the President’s Attorney General)

Americans already tolerate the above abuses of their freedoms by the federal government – in the name of security, of course.  And if we have already come this far, then how far away is an experience like Aranka Siegal’s – right here in the United States? Adolf Hitler became Chancellor in 1933. Mass deportations of Jews into extermination camps and the eastern ghettos of Europe began with Operation Reinhard in 1942 – not even a decade later.

We believe sharing a painful past helps to prevent an even more painful future. Telling stories of suffering, of abuse, and yes, even of rape and the evil that Aranka Siegal endured, is strength. Recognizing the evil in those stories helps us identify it and know it when we see it instead of becoming numb and dumb to the world around us.

Perhaps we need to tell students painful stories more often, not less.

The Federal Government Insists Pot Laws Are To Protect You…From Stoned Rabbits

WARNING: if you read this blog post, you may experience any or all of the following symptoms: lightheadedness, dizziness, uncontrollable rage, uncontrollable laughter, and/or pain from the sudden impact of an external object, such as a hand or table, hitting your forehead.

You have been warned!

For Freedom Friday, we thought we would have just a bit of fun at the federal government’s expense. As of today, 36 states allow for some form of legal marijuana use. There’s considerable diversity within “some form.” Compare Colorado and Washington, for example, where marijuana use is largely legal to states such as our own Virginia where it is legal to use, with medical necessity, with restrictions on usage, with no psychoactive elements permitted. And anything in between.

US Map - Some Form Legal Marijuana

US States with Some Legal Usage of Marijuana

(No, this map is not admissible as a defense exhibit. If you get busted with pot in one of the green colored states, you’re on your own.)

But you’ll notice Utah is colored in blue, and that is where today’s bizarre tale begins.

It seems the federal government is not liking the state of things when it comes to states forging their own marijuana laws and essentially thumbing their noses at federal restrictions.

Utah currently has no form of lawful marijuana usage – medical or otherwise. So as the legislature there was considering a law to permit medical marijuana use, the Drug Enforcement Administration decided it needed to pull out all stops and really get ahead of this thing before it “took root,” if you know what we mean.

The last thing the federal government wants is for adults to be able to make their own decisions outside of what the government desires. Perhaps the next to last thing the federal government wants is for states to make their own decisions regarding the criminality of marijuana usage.

With that in mind, the DEA dispatched Special Agent Matt Fairbanks to give testimony at the Utah Senate committee hearing where the bill was being considered. Fairbanks argued prohibition prevented cultivation of marijuana. And cultivation would attract wildlife, such as rabbits who “cultivated a taste for the marijuana” reports The Washington Post who covered the story. (If you go to the story and want to listen to the audio to see that we are indeed not making this up, the Fairbanks testimony begins at about 58:00 and the good stuff begins at about time stamp 1:02:00.)

We wondered if the agent’s story was true, so we used a FOIA request in order to obtain the actual video from the agent’s field work that corroborates the testimony given to the Utah Senate committee:


Okay, we were pulling your leg about the video, but one thing we’re not making up is the federal government’s determination to impose its will over states and individuals when it comes to drug enforcement. We suppose if the best argument the feds can muster for continuing this practice has come down to stoned rabbits, then maybe the feds are running out of reasons to keep up with their “War on Drugs.”

At Freedom Forge Press, we favor limited government. That means allowing individuals to make decisions on their own without being coerced by heavy-handed laws. Is marijuana addictive? Is it “bad”? Does it bring relief from chronic pain and medical conditions? We can’t answer that. And based on the quality of the DEA’s testimony, it seems like the federal government doesn’t know the answers to those questions either.

So in the face of that uncertainty, as long as people are not harming others with some medical or recreational marijuana use, and as long as people are self-funding their own habits, then we say leave well enough alone.

Freedom Friday: Freedom for Shaneen Allen!

shaneen-allenFor this week’s Freedom Friday, we are happy to share that New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, has issued a full pardon to Shaneen Allen.

Allen, a Pennsylvania resident, was in possession of a firearm for which she held a valid and legal conceal carry permit from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Her crime was crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey, home of some of the strictest gun laws.

At a traffic stop, Allen informed the officer that she had a firearm in the car which she was licensed to carry. This triggered her arrest, 40 days in jail, loss of her job, and perhaps most devastatingly, the loss of custody of her children. Due to New Jersey’s Byzantine gun control laws, which some gun control activists continue to push for, Allen would also face felony charges preventing her from owning a firearm in the future as well as a mandatory minimum 3 year prison sentence.

All for exercising what is a black-letter right guaranteed by the Constitution via the 2nd Amendment. In addition to this right, the Constitution requires states to give “full faith and credit…to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” This should certainly apply to the permitting process whereby states allow law-abiding citizens the right to “conceal carry” firearms.

Allen’s situation is not isolated. And many law-abiding citizens can find themselves in a similar predicament and be victim to overzealous prosecutors and a patchwork of state agreements making a gun permit of one state accepted in a collection of others. To know every possible permutation of what states honor which other states’ permits, you need an interactive map, like this one.

No state has the right to unleash this kind of prosecutorial terrorism on law-abiding citizens. That goes for those who hold the legal right to possess a firearm, and are visiting their state, as well as their own citizens. We prefer to leave it to states to run their own affairs, but each state admitted to the Union shares one federal Constitution. And that Constitution guarantees citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

We tip our hat to the governor of New Jersey and hope that Shaneen Allen’s story will become a call for other states having similar over-the-top gun control laws, like New Jersey (we’re looking at you, Maryland!), to reform their criminal codes to decriminalize the lawful exercise of Constitutional rights!

Freedom Friday: Questioning Climate Change

climate change

For Freedom Friday, we were heartened to read about a recent victory for the First Amendment. The Wall Street Journal editorial “Climate Free Speech: Dissenters push back against political intimidation” explains how Senators Barbara Boxer, Ed Markey, and Sheldon Whitehouse sent out over 100 letters to organizations disagreeing with the President’s stance on climate change. The letters demanded information about these groups’ funding. Following a similar inquiry by House Democrat Raul Grijalva, these inquiries are clearly an attempt to intimidate and to silence rational debate on the issue of climate change.

We have long felt that the debate on climate change is not settled and should be kindled rather than silenced. Scientific inquiry requires a constant testing and retesting of hypotheses in order to confirm or disprove scientific “facts.”

There are simply too many variables in the climate change phenomena to jump to a weakly-supported conclusion that human activities are solely responsible for climate change—and that the only cure for this is government regulatory policies that are harmful to the US economy. There are too many factors yet to be examined, such as natural patterns in climate change (the Little Ice Age, for instance, happened before massive industrialization), solar activity, action and reaction of carbon and heat energy in the atmosphere, and the extreme impact of volcanic eruptions, which can negate our miniscule efforts to limit our own gaseous outputs.

But regardless of your opinion on climate change, the more important point is this: “’singling out’” scientists ‘based solely on their interpretations of scientific research’ is a threat to free inquiry.” That’s a statement from the American Geological Union, and we agree. One of the elements that makes this country great is free speech. Unlike other nations, we don’t have to be afraid of our government if we choose to express our opinion—or, at least, we shouldn’t be.

Because of the fear-mongering and intimidation, the climate change debate has once again seated itself largely on party lines—with one party adamantly accepting climate change and another adamantly arguing against it. As usual, such debate clouds the issue in question, causing emotion rather than reason to prevail. So we support any organization that stands up for the right to hold and express one’s opinion without fear of intimidation or reprisal.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff puts it quite nicely:

“Democrats and their allies have failed to persuade Americans that climate change is so serious that it warrants sweeping new political controls on American energy and industry. So liberals are trying to silence those who are winning the argument. We’re glad to see the dissenters aren’t intimidated.”

Freedom Friday: Congratulations Wisconsin!

Wisconsin-Break-Chain

Governor Scott Walker signed a bill into law in Wisconsin that prohibits unions from collecting mandatory union dues. We say “Congratulations, Wisconsin!” Wisconsin joins 24 other states, becoming the 25th in the Union to enact such a law.

Employees can still join unions. Employees can still pay union dues if they feel that their unions are providing a worthwhile service. Unions can no longer exact payments from members who don’t want to be part of the union.

President Obama was quick to condemn the new law as “anti-worker,” but what could be more anti-worker than taking someone’s wages against their will to support an organization that does not represent their workplace desires, and more often than not, makes contributions to political parties that may not represent their values.

At least one recent poll suggests the law is a pretty solid hit for the people of Wisconsin. They’d have voted for the law themselves by a margin of 62-32.

Suppose by virtue of living in a town, you were required to join the local gym and pay dues. What if the gym doesn’t have the newest equipment? Doesn’t have very good locker rooms? And management doesn’t much care to improve anything because, well, they’re guaranteed their mandatory dues whether they fix up the place or not.

All of a sudden a new mayor comes to town and says, you don’t have to join the local gym anymore – you are still free to stay if you want, but our guess is the gym management will have a new-found interest in providing value to members in exchange for voluntary, rather than mandatory, dues.

Employees own their labor, not unions. So an employee should have a right to sell his/her labor to the employer of his or her choosing without having to pay a cut to a union boss for the privilege of working. That’s un-American; that’s wrong.

So today on Freedom Friday, we salute YOU Wisconsin!

Freedom Friday: The DC Sled-In

Capitol SleddingWhile we were stuck at home yesterday for a heavy DC-area snowstorm, we couldn’t help but smile to learn that DC-area children and their parents were staging a “sled-in,” protesting a law that prohibited them from sledding on United States Capitol Grounds.

Though efforts were made to seek an exception to the rule, the bureaucrats would not cave. However, we were pleased to see that despite the numerous children caught breaking the law, no one was arrested for doing so—or even prevented from having fun.

While we don’t encourage lawlessness, we do love a common-sense approach to making and enforcing laws, and it seems that even though these young’uns had a day off from school, they still got to learn a lesson in civil disobedience, common sense, and freedom.

You can read more here:

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Our Interview with LibertyNerd!

Liberty Nerd 1The Internets make for a great place to connect with all sorts of people and share ideas and discussion about thoughts and various topics of interest. We were fortunate to find LibertyNerd, and we knew immediately that her love of liberty and things nerdy would make her an instant friend worthy of following and learning from. For this week’s Freedom Friday, we met up with LibertyNerd in her natural habitat (on the Internet of course) for a virtual interview. Check out that interview below, then check out LibertyNerd’s Facebook page and/or Twitter feed. If you have any inner nerd, even a small bit, we promise you won’t be bored!

Freedom Forge Press:  Tell us about yourself.

LibertyNerd:  I’m 24 years old, currently a graduate student at GMU pursuing a dual MA in History and Education (with the teaching licensure). My undergrad was a BA in History with a focus on Russian History, and a thesis on a futuristic anti-opera from 1913 in the Russian Avant Garde. I’ve got about 24 animals as well! Along with all of that, I am a HUGE Harry Potter lover! With that comes an enjoyment and passion for reading books. I have found that if I’m not reading something, whether it’s a book, journal, news article, etc., my day is boring. For politics, I volunteered for Ron Paul 2012, was lead intern for Ken Cuccinelli for Governor in the Fairfax office, and a founder of GMU Young Americans for Liberty. Rep. Thomas Massie is my favorite Congressman currently serving.

FFP: You call yourself the “Liberty Nerd”. What is the link between liberty and “nerd-dom”?

LN:  There are MANY (and I mean MANY) qualities that are coming about in the media nowadays, along with freedom/liberty aspects that people may not have picked up on before. From Star Wars’ Han Solo being anti-government and marrying a capitalistic Princess Leia, to looking at how the Ministry of Magic in “Harry Potter” tries to meddle with the education system at Hogwarts, there are things that society can take and learn from and try to see the connection between fantasy and reality.

Also, look at Facebook news feeds: they are downright depressing half the time. My goal with my page is to help liberty-minded activists and lovers unite with others that are passionate about things other than just politics. Studying this… “nerd” culture in a liberty-minded way can help others understand our message without some being all up in everyone’s face. I feel like there are many self-proclaimed libertarians that go around and shout at those different from them because they aren’t libertarians, and how is that helping us win people over? It’s not. It pushes people away. By combining what people have been exposed to in Hollywood and the media with liberty-minded philosophies, I think it can be a very strong and winning argument for us (and we don’t have to be mean about it!)!Liberty Nerd 9

FFP: What do you think an average person can and should do to increase his/her own personal liberty?

LN: Just be themselves and constantly learn about the OTHER side of things. If you strictly focus on just honing in on your beliefs, that’s fine…but you will never be able to justify your beliefs by not exposing yourself to the other side of the coin, you know? I remember reading how someone only read stuff by X economist because this individual didn’t believe in understanding any other type of economist’s viewpoints. That’s such a shallow argument! Be well-rounded in your beliefs by understanding and reading up about both sides! Besides, if you stop learning in life and just focus on yourself and you 5ft radius, you’re going to live that shallow life.

FFP: What is your favorite book/movie/story and why?

LN: I have two (I can’t pick just one!). It’s “Peter Pan” and the “Harry Potter” series. I have always loved the story of “Peter Pan” and the idea of never growing up. Even though I’m continuously growing up (I feel we never stop growing intellectually, anyways!), I embrace my childhood and my old imagination. Why live a life without fun and imagination? I feel like that is the message from Neverland: even if you grow up, stay true to who you are inside. This also goes into how to grow your own personal liberty: just being yourself!

Then, there’s “Harry Potter.” I was absolutely part of the Potter generation. Growing up, I was teased in school for being so in love with it, however, I found friends who shared my passion for the books and we all became such great friends. Honestly, that book series taught me more about life and friendships than any other show or book series ever has. There’s truly something magical about those books, and I will always be thankful that I decided to pick up “Sorcerer’s Stone” on a random whim when I was 10 years old. Also, to go along with Potter, the fifth book, “Order of the Phoenix” has MANY anti-government qualities and themes to it, and Rowling herself believes we should always question authority. It’s very interesting to see how things from that book are playing out here in our education system or our government today (education reform, spying, torture, control, etc.)

FFP: Who is your favorite pro-liberty hero in a sci-fi or fantasy story (book or movie)? Why?

LN: I’ve got two, a male and a female. This is going to sound really generic, but I heavily connected to Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games.” Even from a non-political standpoint, I connected to her. Like Katniss, I also have a little sister that reminds me of Primrose Everdeen, and I would have absolutely volunteered as tribute for my sister as well. Politically speaking, Katniss is strong and hates what the Capitol has done, yet she remained apolitical and went along with it for a while, until she worked out a way to get around the government. I mean, how badass is that? Infiltrate the system by getting to know it, then demolish it from within. She also doesn’t like the attention, but she accepted it in order to prove a point to the Capitol. She’s also headstrong, stubborn, skillful, and when all is said and done, loving.

Also, Captain Malcom Reynolds from the show “Firefly.” He cares for his crew, hates the government, and will do what he can to evade it. You don’t want to cross this guy, especially when he’s wearing a “pretty floral bonnet.”

FFP: Flip side: who is your “favorite” anti-liberty villain in a sci-fi or fantasy story? Why?

Liberty Nerd 6

LN: Professor Umbridge from “Potter.” I absolutely hate that character more than Voldemort who was the epitome of evil! She’s my favorite, though, mainly because there’s a plethora of things we as a society can learn from her. She doesn’t want us to defend or protect ourselves because there’s “nothing out there to harm us”? Ha, apply that to the world today! Look at what’s around us. Our right to defend ourselves is bring infringed upon, just like Umbridge tried to do the same to students. No wands were allowed in class, and the students revolted and were like, “Oh hell no we’re gonna do our own thing,” and they did and became very strong wizards. Umbridge is the character we love to hate, and also just flat out hate.

FFP: Education seems to be a priority for you. Why is this a concern/priority for you, and what do you want to change?

LN: Well, I want to be a teacher in the system…so take what I said about Katniss and apply it here! I think there are ways around the system in order to teach students. Many believe we have to just teach students with an outline and teach them the what’s and the who’s of history…but why not the how’s and the why’s? History is an abstract concept, and yet it’s taught to be either black or white. Not acceptable. I want to change how history is taught in school, and I want to show people how it is being taught. There’s a video on my Facebook page of an American History textbook for 11th grade, and it doesn’t have ANY documents in it! No Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no Articles of Confederation, no Gettysburg Address (even THAT’S surprising). It’s downright pathetic that this is how the State expects students to learn. It’s all about profit instead of actually teaching students nowadays. It’s all about how well students can memorize instead of learn and think for themselves, which causes students to expect the answers right in front of them, instead of applying what they already know. It’s all about how well students do well on a standardized test. Whatever happened to how well students can perform individually, think for themselves, or take personal responsibility for their own grades? It’s a sad state of affairs for education.

FFP: Where can people find you online?

LN: They can find me online at my Facebook page  or they can follow me on Twitter @Liberty_Nerd

FFP: What can people expect when they visit your site/page?

LN: A mix of nerdy things (books, movies, shows), space articles, political things, maybe a pic or a million of my cat Tootsie. It’s being designed to be a FUN page to brighten up news feeds, a place to post articles/pictures of nerd culture combined with political thought. Also, expect interaction from me! I think it’s great when admins of pages personally respond to people. It creates a sense of community instead of anonymity.

FFP: Is there anything you wanted us to ask that we didn’t (and answer!)?

LN: My political beliefs are liberty minded. I do have libertarian qualities, but I also have a few conservative ones as well (example, many libertarians are pro-choice while I am pro-life for personal reasons!).

I’m terrible with economics, I really am, and I don’t hide this factor. It bothers me when people think they know all the things in the world and that they’re always right. I don’t hide behind the fact that I don’t know everything – no one does, and I’m okay with that. Another factor with my page is that I hope to learn from others about certain topics, such as economics, and build upon it.

Freedom Friday: Promoting Freedom by Transcending Party Politics

At Freedom Forge Press, we’ve always been bothered by politics and the way the two-party system tends to divide people along rigid, artificial lines: much like a high school pep rally, it’s “us” versus “them” with no room for dissent. Clearly, this mentality becomes destructive when trying to use rationality to solve important issues.

We were heartened to view the following video, put out by Reason (link to http://reason.com/reasontv/2015/02/19/what-we-saw-at-isflc-2015), about last weekend’s International Students for Liberty Conference. The liberty movement seems to attract individuals who express disagreements with the two major political parties, namely with the Republican and Democrat propensity to limit freedoms. Each party seems happy to limit freedoms, as long as those limits serve the party’s best interests.

The students featured in this video seem to transcend the limits of the two-party system, focusing on liberty and freedom for all. Seeing young people so involved and already using critical thinking skills to question policies that govern their world is heartening indeed. They can envision a world with greater freedoms, and imagination is the first step to achieving.

It left us feeling just a little brighter about the future.

Scholarship Contest Celebrates the First Amendment

Turning on the news can be a scary thing, so we love it when we hear some good news for once, especially on the freedom front. We’ll be sharing a bit of positive freedom-themed news each week for Freedom Friday. Catch something in the news you want to share? Send it our way. In the meantime, let freedom ring!

We were thrilled to see that JEA, the Journalism Education Association, has planned a freedom scholarship opportunity encouraging students to celebrate the five freedoms of the first amendment– speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.

From the site:

“From Feb. 22 to 28, students 13 and older are encouraged to share original photos and artwork on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #PictureFreedom. Make sure that posts are public, and if posts are being shared on Facebook, the account should allow people to follow it. A panel of educators and First Amendment experts will pick the top 25 posts based on originality, creativity and clarity in conveying the theme of freedom. Winners will each receive a $1,000 scholarship.”

We applaud any opportunity to remind students of the freedoms they enjoy in this country.

You can read more here: http://jea.org/blog/2015/02/03/picture-freedom-scholarship-contest-planned-feb-22-28/