Original Argument: The Lost Chapters. Translated by Joshua Charles

Number 22

Other Defects of the Present Confederation (continued)

Alexander Hamilton

New York Packet

Friday, December 14, 1787

In addition to the defects of the existing federal system that I discussed in my last paper, there are others which are just as important, and that also make this current system of ours incapable of administering the affairs of the Union.

All parties agree that the lack of a power to regulate commerce is one of these defects.[1] The usefulness of such a power has already been discussed in earlier papers (Nos. 11-13), and for this reason, as well as the universal agreement on this subject, not much else needs to be said.  Even the most casual observer will see that that whether it is trade or finance, nothing else clearly demands Federal oversight more than commerce.

The lack of this power has already kept us from signing treaties with foreign powers that would have been beneficial, and has also caused friction between the states.  No nation that is familiar with our current political system would be unwise enough to make any binding agreements with the United States because those agreements would concede important privileges to us, as any agreements on behalf of the Union could be broken at any time by one of the states.

Also, they have found that they are able to enjoy every advantage our markets provide them without granting us anything in return, except when it may be convenient for them.  It is therefore not surprising that when Mr. Jenkins introduced a bill to the House of Commons (Great Britain) that would regulate all the temporary interaction between our two countries. He introduced it by declaring that previous bills had been able to achieve all the goals of British commerce, and that it would be wise to continue this policy until it became clearer whether or not the American government would become more stable.

Several states have tried to influence the actions of Great Britain in this regard by enacting their own bans, restrictions, and exclusions.  But the lack of coordination, which itself comes from a lack of a general authority, not to mention the different views of the states, has thwarted every similar attempt, and will continue to do so as long as the obstacles which prevent us from implementing a uniform commercial policy remain the same.

Contrary to the spirit of the Union, the meddlesome and un-neighborly regulations of some states have sometimes given other nations good reason to be offended and complain about us.  I fear that if examples like this are not restrained by a national authority, they will not only happen more often but will become more widespread until they become very serious sources of animosity and conflict, which may even obstruct the commerce between different parts of the Confederacy itself.

“The commerce of the German empire is in continual trammels, from the multiplicity of the duties which the several princes and states exact upon the merchandises passing through their territories; by means of which the fine streams and navigable rivers with which Germany is so happily watered, are rendered almost useless.”[2]

Though the genius of the American people may never permit this to happen, we can reasonably expect that conflicts between the regulations of each state will gradually cause the citizens of each to be regarded and treated by the others as no better than foreigners or aliens.

Under the Articles of Confederation, the power of raising armies amounts to not much more than the congress being able to require from the states certain quotas of men.  As the Revolutionary war showed, this system has been found to be full of obstacles to a strong and effective system of defense.  The states began to compete with each other in a sort of auction for men.  In order to provide the quotas required of them, they outbid each other until their bounties became so large that they could no longer support them.  Those who were more willing to serve began to procrastinate and stopped sending their men into battles as often because they continued to hope that the bounties would become even larger.

What resulted was a slow stream of very few men during our most desperate emergencies, short enlistments (to our great loss), and continuous fluctuations in the number of troops, which proved disastrous for their discipline and also constantly put the public safety in danger of the crisis of a disbanded army.  This also forced us to occasionally use harsh methods to recruit and keep men in the army, which were only put up with because of the People’s enthusiasm for liberty.

This method of recruiting troops is just as unfriendly to the economy and our national vitality as it is to an equal sharing of the burdens of war.  The states near the front lines, in the interests of self-preservation, made the necessary effort to supply their quotas of men (which was often more than they could truly afford), while the states at a greater distance were just as negligent in their efforts as the others were diligent in theirs.  The immediate pressures that were felt from all of this was not eased by the hope that some of the negligent states would come clean (as was the case with financial contributions).  The states which did not pay their fair share of money could at least be charged with that, but it wasn’t possible to keep track of all the shortages of men.  There is really no reason to regret this however, since there is a very small chance that delinquent states will ever be able to provide compensation for their financial failures anyway.  The system of quotas and requisitions, whether it regards money or men, is in every way a stupid system for the Union, and one which results in inequality and injustice amongst the states.

Giving each state the exact same voting power is another horrible part of the Confederation.  Every idea of fair representation condemns this principle that gives Rhode Island the same voting power as Massachusetts, or Connecticut the same as New York, and gives Delaware just as much influence over national debates as Pennsylvania, or Virginia, or North Carolina.  Its very nature contradicts the fundamental principle of republican government, which requires that the majority should prevail.

Arguments that sound good but that lack substance could be made in support of the idea that sovereigns are equal, and that a majority of the votes of the states will be a majority of Confederated America.  But this sort of logical game will never replace what fairness and common sense tell us is correct.  Under this principle, it would be possible for a majority of the states to only include a minority of the People (New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, South Carolina, and Maryland are a majority of the states, but they are not even a third of the total population of the United States).  Two thirds of the People of America will not be persuaded by fancy arguments or fancier speech to allow their interests to be governed at will by the other third.  The larger states would sooner or later revolt against the idea of having to live under the laws which came out of the smaller states.  If they were to give up their rightful political importance in this country, it would not only require giving up the love of power, but also even the love of equality.  It is neither rational to expect the first, or moral to require the second.  Considering how much the smaller states rely on the Union for their protection and welfare, they would be wise to drop this claim to equal voting power which, if not given up, would prove fatal to the existence of the Union.

It could be argued that since under the Articles of Confederation nine states (two thirds of the states), not seven, are required to agree on the most important decisions, then those nine states will always include a majority of the citizens of the Union.  But this doesn’t even address the unfairness of an equal vote between states that are completely different sizes and have very unequal populations.  Nor is it even accurate to say this: by simply adding New York and Connecticut to our previous list and bringing it to a total of nine states, we still don’t have a majority of the People.  Besides, there are very important matters which can be decided by a bare majority, while there are others about which doubts have been raised which, if we say that seven votes are enough to make a decision about them, would end up affecting some of our most important interests.  It should also be pointed out that while it is likely that the number of states will increase, there is currently nothing in the Articles of Confederation which will provide for a proportional rise in the ratio of votes required to pass resolutions.

But this is not all: what at first may seem like a cure is in fact a poison.  To give a minority the power to override a majority (which is always the case when more than a majority is required to make a decision) essentially subjects the views of the greater number to those of the lesser.  Because some states’ representatives have not even been present, congress, like the Polish Diet, has been frequently brought to a complete halt because of a single VETO.  Delaware and Rhode Island, which represent a full 1/60 of the population of the Union, have been able to bring congress to a complete standstill several times.  This is one of those things which sound good in theory, but whose actual result is quite the opposite.  The idea that the important decisions of any public body should be unanimous was originally coined because of a desire for greater security.  But what has actually happened has resulted in  the embarrassment of the administration, the destruction of the energy of government, and the replacement of the regular debates of a respectable majority with the capricious desires of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junta.[3] It is during national emergencies when the goodness or badness, weakness or strength of a government becomes extremely important because of the necessity for action.

The public business must, in some way or another, go forward.  If a stubborn minority can control the opinion of the majority, then the majority will be forced, in order to move public business forward, to conform to the views of the minority, and thus the views of the smaller will ultimately overrule the views of the larger.  This causes tedious delays, constant negotiation and intrigue, and as such will disgracefully compromise the public good.  And yet, in such a system, it is fortunate that a compromise can even be made in the first place, since coming to any sort of agreement will not even occur on other occasions, which would put the functions of government on hold, or even fatally stop them.  In this system, it is often impractical to obtain the necessary number of votes, and so the government is constantly very busy doing nothing.  Its situation will always be one of weakness, or even borderline anarchy.

It is not difficult to see how the rule of the minority would help facilitate foreign intrusions into our country, as well as a greater amount of domestic factions than the rule of the majority would, despite the fact that the opposite is the common assumption. The biggest source of the mistake behind this assumption would be, and has been, not enough attention being paid to those problems which would result from the work of government being obstructed during certain critical periods.  When the agreement of a large number is required by the constitution to do anything at the national level, then we can at least rest peacefully knowing that at least nothing inappropriate will likely be done.  But we forget how much good could be prevented, and how much bad could result from keeping the government in this straitjacket, and from doing what is necessary.

Suppose, for example, that we were in an alliance with one foreign nation in a war against another, and let’s say that our situation demanded peace, while the interests or ambition of our ally leaned towards continuing the war, a situation which would justify us in seeking a separate peace treaty.  In this situation, this ally of ours would find it much easier to tie up the hands of our government, which requires two thirds of the vote instead of a simple majority to negotiate peace, by their scheming and bribes.  In the first case, he would have to corrupt a smaller portion of our government, and in the second, a much larger portion.  Based on the same principle, it would be even easier for a foreign nation we were actually at war with to confuse our congress and make a mockery of our war effort.  Similar things would happen economically as well.  A nation with whom we had a treaty of commerce could very easily prevent us from negotiating a similar treaty with one of their competitors, even though such a treaty would be beneficial to us.

These evils that I have described are by no means simply imaginary.  Despite the many advantages, one of the weaknesses of a republic is that it is too easy for a foreign power to corrupt.  A hereditary monarch, though he may often sacrifice his subjects for the sake of his own ambition, has such a great personal interest in the government and the external glory of his nation that it would be very difficult for a foreign power to offer him anything which would make him willing to commit treason against his own state.  There have been very few examples of this type of royal prostitution, though there have been many examples of all sorts of other kinds.

In republics, people who are elevated above the rest of the community to prestigious and powerful positions by the votes of their fellow citizens, may find that it is worth it (unless they are exceptionally virtuous) to take a bribe which seems to outweigh their obligations and duty to the public.  Hence the reason why history provides us with so many mortifying examples of foreign corruption taking place in republics!  I have already discussed how this has led to the downfall of many of the ancient confederacies (Nos. 18).  It is a well-known fact that some of the representatives of the United Provinces (United Netherlands) have been bought off by the representatives of the neighboring kingdoms.  If my memory serves me correctly, the Earl of Chesterfield (Great Britain) wrote in a letter to his court that his success in some important negotiations with the United Netherlands was because he was able to obtain a Major’s commission (military rank) for one of their representatives.  And in Sweden, the rival parties were both alternately bought by France and England in such a shameless and notorious manner that it aroused universal disgust throughout that nation, and was also the main reason behind how the most limited monarch in Europe became in a single day, without any uproar, violence, or opposition, one of the most absolute and uncontrolled monarchs in Europe.

I have yet to mention the defect which tops off all of the defects of the Confederacy: the lack of a judiciary power.[4] Laws are worthless words on paper without courts to interpret and define their true meaning and function.  If the treaties of the United States are to have any force at all, they must be considered part of the law of the land.[5] Their true significance, as far as individuals are concerned, must, like all other laws, be determined by the judiciary.  To make sure that these determinations remain uniform, there ought to be a body which has the last word on all of them, a SUPREME COURT, which should be given the same degree of authority as that which negotiates the treaties in the first place.[6] Both of these ingredients are absolutely necessary.  If each state has its own supreme court, a court which would have the last word for that individual state, then there may be as many legal determinations as there are courts.  There is an infinite amount of diverse opinions among men, as we see when not only different courts, but judges on even the same courts disagree with each other.  To avoid the confusion that would come from multiple courts making contradictory decisions on multiple laws, all nations have found it necessary to establish one Supreme Court that is above all the others and which has the final say on all judicial determinations, so that the rules of civil justice remain uniform throughout the land.

This is even more important in a situation like ours, where the laws of the whole are in danger of being overridden by the laws of the parts.  If each state’s court is allowed to make its own final decisions, other than the contradictions which are sure to come up between the states, it is likely that each court’s decision will be strongly affected by local views, prejudices, and laws.  As far as such interference is concerned, it is more likely that the provisions of the local laws will be preferred more than the national laws, simply because of the greater respect that men in public office give to the authority to which they owe their existence.  The treaties of the United States can currently be broken by thirteen difference legislatures, as well as by all the different courts which act under the authority of those legislatures.  The good faith, reputation, and peace of the entire Union are thus always at the mercy of all the prejudices, passions, and interests of each of the states.  Is it possible for foreign nations to respect or trust such a government?  Is it even possible that the People of America will continue to trust their honor, happiness, and safety to such an unstable foundation?

In this overview of the Confederation, I have only focused on its most obvious defects, and temporarily ignored the many imperfections that can be found in the details, imperfections which render all the powers given to the Confederacy dead on arrival.  It must be obvious at this point to all wise and unbiased men that this system is so radically flawed and unsound that it must not merely be amended, but must have its main features and characteristics completely changed.

The very organization of congress is utterly incapable of exercising the powers which are necessary for the Union to have.  A single legislature may be the proper receptacle of those small, extremely restricted powers which the current federal government has, but it would be contrary to good government to entrust it with those additional powers which even the more moderate and rational opponents of the Constitution agree the United States should have.  If the proposed Plan is not accepted, but the Union is still able to survive the schemes of men who wish to profit from its dissolution, then we should probably give the congress, as it is currently structured, several supplementary powers.  Either the machine will completely fall apart because of how weak it is, or it will have its force and energy gradually increased in the future (as necessary) until it finally has gathered unto itself, and in a single body (congress) all the important rights and powers of sovereignty, leaving to our posterity one of the most hideous forms of government ever imagined by man.  Thus, we would actually create the very tyranny which the opponents of the Constitution wish to avoid!

The fact that the existing federal system was never ratified by the PEOPLE has contributed more than just a little bit to its infirmity.  Resting on no better foundation than the consent of the legislatures of the states, many frequent and detailed questions about the validity of its powers have been raised, and have even (in some cases) given birth to the dangerous idea of a right to legislative repeal.  Since the Confederacy owes its existence to the law of a state, it has been argued that the same power which established this central government (the individual states) could also repeal the law which it itself passed.[7] No matter how profane it is to say that a party which has made an agreement has a right to break that agreement, this doctrine has found some respectable supporters.  The mere fact that this has even come up should prove to us the necessity of providing our national government with a stronger foundation than the one which simply relies on authority delegated from some other authority.  The fabric of American empire should rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE.[8] The streams of National power should flow directly from this pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.

Publius


[1]United States Constitution: Article I, Section 8, clause 3

[2]“Encyclopedia, article ‘Empire’” [sic]

[3]Junto: “A self-appointed committee, especially one with political aims.”

[4]United States Constitution: Article III, Section 1

[5]United States Constitution: Article VI, clause 2

[6]The description of the Judicial Branch under the Constitution is contained in Article III, while the description of Congress and the President (“… [the] same authority as that which negotiates the treaties in the first place”) is mostly found in Article I and Article II, with several miscellaneous powers of Congress existing throughout the Constitution.

[7]Nullification Doctrine: This is the doctrine, or principle which said that the states were individually capable of declaring Federal laws unconstitutional, and therefore had the right to repeal them (for that state).  It was also very closely related to the idea of secession, which was the idea that the states had the right to leave the Union.  Historically, there seems to be at least a tacit acknowledgement of this doctrine’s legitimacy by both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  Jefferson wrote in the Kentucky Resolutions (1798):

“…that in cases of an abuse of the delegated powers, the members of the general government, being chosen by the people, a change by the people would be the constitutional remedy; but, where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy: that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact, (casus non fœderis) to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits: that without this right, they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them: that nevertheless, this commonwealth, from motives of regard and respect for its co-States, has wished to communicate with them on the subject: that with them alone it is proper to communicate, they alone being parties to the compact, and solely authorized to judge in the last resort of the powers exercised under it…”

Madison wrote in the Virginia Resolutions (1799), which are typically paired with the Kentucky Resolutions:

“The resolutions, having taken this view of the Federal compact, proceed to infer that, in cases of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the States, who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound to interpose to arrest the evil, and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them. ...The Constitution of the United States was formed by the sanction of the States, given by each in its sovereign capacity. It adds to the stability and dignity, as well as to the authority of the Constitution, that it rests on this solid foundation. The States, then, being parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity that there can be no tribunal above their authority to decide, in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated; and, consequently, as parties to it, they must themselves decide, in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition.”

[8]United States Constitution: Preamble

Ryan: Kanye West and the Great Society

Graphic by Alexander Somoskey.

Donald Trump has been name-dropped by nearly every major rapper of the last 30 years, starting with a reference by Beastie Boys on their iconic album Paul's Boutique, the Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop.

He's been mentioned by Jay Z. Ludacris. Young Thug. Nelly. Kendrick Lamar. Juicy J. Rick Ross. Eminem. Big Sean. A Tribe Called Quest. Scarface. Lil Wayne. The Coup. Master P. Ice Cube. Mos Def. Raekwon, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and various other Wu-Tang Clan affiliates. R. Kelly. Pete Rock. Nas. E-40.

And don't forget this surreal moment in our nation's history.

Then-candidate Trump on SNL ... dancing to a Drake parody.(Screenshot from YouTube)

When Bun B referred to Trump on the Chopped-n-Screwed anthem "Pocket Full of Stones," he was keeping with a tradition of rappers admiring Trump. This only changed a few years ago.

But then there's Kanye West, who proudly donned the red MAGA hat after discovering Candace Owens and being called "a jackass" by our nation's first black President. Then Kanye was hugging President Trump in the Oval Office? While wearing a Make America Great Again hat, supposed symbol of white supremacy, Nazism, hate, evil?

(Screenshot from YouTube)

People flipped. Everyone did. Longtime critics suddenly — and bizarrely — embraced Kanye as an ally, while longtime defenders disowned him, abandoned him like nail clippings, often mocking his struggles with mental illness and labeling him, if you can believe it, a white supremacist.

Then, in a moment that changed music history, Kanye released the single "Ye vs. the People."

Ye vs. the People (starring TI as the People) www.youtube.com

In it, he challenges what he sees as the unspoken rule that black Americans have to vote Democrat. He had hinted at the idea on his track "Black Skinhead," from the hauntingly gorgeous album Yeezus, but now he was addressing it head-on, with the passion of a man going to Confession for the first time in a decade.

Why should black folks have to abide by any set of cultural or political or artistic guidelines to begin with? And, he argues, the pressure to adhere to this longheld framework is itself undergirded by a subtle and cleverly masked racism, imposed by a group of people who portray themselves as the champions of race and enemies of white supremacy and destroyers of dumb yokel rednecks with their Rebel flags and monster trucks and fully-automatic AR-15 assault weapons. All of which, it turns out, is some next-level projection.

Kanye also confronts the presence of these expectations and stereotypes in hip-hop. The idea that rappers must invoke a negative persona in order to succeed. And the moment they deviate from that image they are rebuked or ignored, even though the persona is damaging to the black community as a whole. Which is especially ironic given that the people who voice the most outrage tend to be highly privileged, supposedly progressive white folks who love to rant about white privilege and black oppression.

Is it better if I rap about crack? 'Cause it's cultural?
Or how about I'ma shoot you? or f**k your b***h?
Or how about all this Gucci, 'cause I'm f****n' rich?

Best of all, Kanye has answers. And they differ from the erudite solutions offered by, say, A Tribe Called Quest, who, like Kanye, have modeled a healthy, positive image of blackness for the black community.

A central theme within "Ye vs. The People" is empathy as power, rebellion, freedom.

Make America Great Again had a negative perception
I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction
Added empathy, care and love and affection
And y'all simply questionin' my methods.

This concept is an extension of the powerful devotion to positive energy that Kanye adopted around that time, a purview he has cultivated into a wild new form of electronic gospel.

But his personal transformation was tough.

That [MAGA] hat stayed in my closet like 'bout a year and a half
Then one day I was like, "F**k it, I'ma do me"
I was in the sunken place and then I found the new me.

This is a struggle that many Americans undergo. Researchers call it the spiral of silence. The idea that the news media and social media present biased opinions as though they are fact, and when the message conflicts with a person's opinions or values, they feel isolated, alone.

Kanye and T.I. during the making of "Ye vs. the People"(Screenshot from YouTube)

As Kanye raps in "Ye vs. the People"

A lot of people agree with me but they're too scared to speak up.

Because we have an incredible ability to sense public opinion. So when we suspect that we hold a belief that rails against acceptable thought, we tend to keep quiet about it. That silence makes the opinion seem even more taboo, resulting in a more widespread silence.

In reality, many of these supposedly taboo opinions are not only popular, they are normal and practical and logical. Healthy, even. And the real danger is in demonizing them. But too many people are afraid they'll be ostracized for expressing their beliefs.

Like how — despite what we've been led to believe — most Americans cannot stand political correctness.

But the small minority of people who champion it are powerful and loud. They're like that cardboard city in North Korea, just visible enough from the border to make it seem like a thriving community. They're the Wicked Witch of the West, or Iago from Othello, or Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants.

So far, they have been successful. Although "success" by their metric is anarchic and primal, all destruction and loudness and people nervous to speak their mind. And the cost of rebellion can be devastating.

By the time Kanye West wrote "Yay versus the People," he had gotten sick of this power dynamic. So he broke the spiral of silence."

*

In the words of German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, "Whoever has language has the world."

Humans alone have it.

But in order for us to know freedom in our world, our language has to be public, shared, active. Because each of us thrives constantly with language, a stream of it always in our mind. Aristotle defined "thought" as the infinite dialogue between the soul and itself. Conversation is the exchange of thought between people. When we converse, we simultaneously release our infinite dialogue and accept the other person's. By speaking, we shape the world and free ourselves.

*

Another way to say it is that Donald Trump might have inspired the song that could very well signify the end of Hip-Hop, which is not only the most popular genre of our zeitgeist, it's the most popular, and successful, form of music in American history, which is the most important era of musical history.

If the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, and Drake literally outpaces the Beatles, then, well, you get the point God forgive me. And Kanye is bigger than Drake. So who better to have the final word on the capacities of Hip-Hop than Kanye West?

Nobody.

Every genre must come to a close. There's a reason why people aren't eagerly awaiting the next great disco album, or flocking to arenas to hear the newest bluegrass superstar, or asking to get their hair done like the latest syringe-armed guitarist of Guns N Roses.

(Screenshot from Instagram)

The great era of Rock 'N' Roll ended roughly about the time Radiohead traded their guitars and drums for synthesizers and sequencers, not long after Kurt Cobain took an insane amount of heroin and cradled a shotgun in his guesthouse, only to be discovered several days later by an electrician. Even worse, Nickelback soiled Cobain's legacy with godawful anthems, and who have their own weird and contradictory and hilarious connection to President Trump.

These days, Rock N' Roll lives mostly via nostalgia, as evinced by the explosion of cover bands. Notice how you don't see any hip-hop cover bands. You will, someday. But, for now, Hip-Hop reigns supreme. And Kanye is the King.

The brilliant Nina Simone once told a reporter that "An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times."

Because music accords itself to the gravity and creative truth of the era. And currently we entrust hip-hop with this complicated maneuver.

But the past year, Kanye has been crafting a new sound through his Sunday services, weekly jam sessions with acoustic musicians and a choir and everyone dressed in white, praying through song, herding us into a better place, looking above for guidance. If it's anything like his track "Ultralight Beam," it will bring calm to our divided culture.

Mark my words: The resultant album will usher in an entirely new era, a magical flash in human history.

So far, hip-hop has been the defiant child of R&B and Electronica, the grandchild of Spoken Word and Steve Reich Minimalism, with tinges of Punk. Not for much longer. Kanye will see to that. And, weirdly, President Trump has helped inspire this transformation.

Meaning, Donald Trump will have had a hand in reinventing music as a whole, in spreading a movement of positive reformation. Love him or hate him, it does not matter. What other politician can make that claim?

There's an optimism to this that Dave Chappelle captured in his now-infamous Saturday Night Live monologue, just days after Trump was elected, asking Americans to at least give the man a chance. And again in his special "Equanimity," when he said

I swear no matter how bad it gets, you're my countrymen, and I know for a fact that I'm determined to work shit out with y'all.

In a moment of now-tired irony, the usual suspects heaped a barrage of hate at Chappelle for these remarks. But their outrage does not matter, in the grand scheme of things. Because it is an incredible time to be alive. It's beautiful. We should never forget that, no matter how petty or outrageous daily life gets.

At the moment, we are a country that is — everywhere, secretly — hurting. But we are Americans. Together. This is America. And, every day, God delights in our greatness and our empathy and our endless gift for love. So open your heart and listen. Say what you need to say.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

Ryan: Michael Bennet, Little League

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every day, life getting shorter. Every day, life going faster. Every day, like a roller coaster. These were the kinds of things that Michael Bennet was saying.

Michael Bennet, God bless him, he seemed like a decent lad. All week he had his family there. He said his campaign was their family vacation. He had had prostate cancer but would you believe he survived?

"Life is getting shorter," he said. "Every day."

Photo by Sean Ryan

He was well spoken. Dry. Talked with an air of consultation. Like you were in his office, and he had things to tell you.

Like a Little League coach who could actually be a coach someday.

*

I would encounter Bennet again the next day, at the Iowa State Fair.

Having just seen Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) at a small Baptist church, we ventured to the fair to see Bernie Sanders' riot of a Sunday speech. Bennet was on before him, so I got there early, and I paced off to get a restroom break. The media center is in the basement of the administration building, right by the Political Soapbox stage.

For whatever reason, the first-floor men's restroom has giant windows along the wall, and you can see right out onto the walkway that wraps around the building. I did not realize that this was the path that the candidates take to get to the stage.

Photo by Sean Ryan

And, this far into the 2020 presidential election, they never went many places alone. They had a press swarm and their wives and maybe an old friend who relocated here when the hurricane sank his house.

I was rushing. Panicking, really. Because I heard all the commotion. But nature abides by its own pace. And as I shuffled to the sink to wash my hands, my pants fell all the way down. I was exposed. Out in the open and in such desperation, you clobber yourself outside of time. It was all slo-mo with the Chopped-n-screwed voices as I scrambled to lift my trousers and audibly gasped the words, "Well just no." At that exact moment, that "accidental Renaissance" painting occurred as I locked eyes with Michael Bennet, slowly maneuvering the walkway.

These sorts of things happened, didn't they? There you were in a restroom, at an NFL game or a concert or maybe a bar, and you see someone you work with, or someone from church or school, and you lock eyes for a moment in confusion then revert to cave talk and shrug and get on with what you were doing. But it's weird when only one of you is actively part of the etiquette and allowances of a restroom and one of you is held to a higher standard, for the sake of common decency. Now let's say that you, the restroom occupant, happen to be credentialed press, and the outsider, Michael Bennet, happens to be a candidate for president of America.

Once the herd passed by behind him, I laughed a bit, quietly, because life could be very funny.

*

Onstage, Bennet, a senator from Colorado, gave the performance of a cake falling into a pool. Like he had been ghost-busted. Like he had spent the last two months learning the Fortnite dance moves and now that he had mastered them, suddenly Fortnite was for losers, and Fortnite dances, well, they were even worse.

The Political Soapbox is great because every candidate has 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes were theirs. Most of the time, they got romantic like a Backstreet Boy singing up toward an open window. Occasionally, they lost it. Bennet did neither. He belly-flopped into hay bales.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Remember that the growing crowd had the dangerous feel of a natural disaster. And it was gaspingly warm that day. So neither the crowd nor the environment were ready to give Bennet a freebie.

He gave a ravishing speech, full of neat invective. Then looked up and realized he still had 14 minutes on the clock. Oof. That was most of it, and he'd already done the Floss and the Robot and the Electro Shuffle, and honestly his shoulder was a little stiff from all that dance practice. So he opened the floor for questions.

Now, that was not the greatest idea. For one, this was not the type of place for such a thing. They called it a soapbox because you were meant to live out the phrase "on a soapbox" by ranting and fist-pounding and all other theatrics.

The Bernie Sanders supporters hadn't arrived en masse yet, so most of the people around the stage were clad in Trump gear. And they all had their hands up ready to ask him questions. Well, firebombs, really, masked as interrogative statements. Bennet shouted without breathing, then said, "I want to find a non-male person who has a question."

This did not sit well with the males who did not like the trend of personalizing all things, cautious gendering, and the sudden change of direction so that now they had to just listen.

Most people did not care.

"I do not support Bernie's plan," Bennet shouted. But would you believe the Bernie supporters had literally just arrived, you could smell their hair dye.

They jeered, then acted exactly — and I mean exactly — like the Trump supporters.

"I would rather support free pre-school than free college," he shouted. "Many people talk about... " but the jeering was too powerful. And the Bernie supporters had likely just had quinoa açaí bowls at their pre-Bernie brunch, so they were unstoppable. Well God bless the man for scratching "Give Presidency a Try" off his bucket list. Because at least he had a bucket list.

What did they have? Student debt and a restraining order? They being the growing factions of Bernie and Trump supporters in the audience. You could not see any pavement. It was just people and faces like the Mediterranean in the evening, all the way to the towering walls of the Grandstand.

Looking out at all that chaos, all that latent disaster, Bennet must have felt a deep stirring.

The night before, Slipknot headlined at the Grand Stand, a sold-out show. Rollicking and bursting and howling. How many drumbeats could drummer Jay Weinberg get per minute? At one point, vocalist Corey Taylor unleashed a demonic bellow, then adjusted his mask and looked out to all those people, those devoted fans, because many of them had Slipknot tattoos, and maybe he, like Bennet, indulged a moment for himself, a personalization of the grand setting, then shrieked, then persuaded the audience to lift their hands into the air, maybe toward a constellation of their choosing, and extend their middle finger like it was an egg landing on a pillow, which symbolizes the human condition.




New installments to this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. For live updates, check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

President Trump couldn't personally make it to Houston for the 3rd Democratic Debate, so he paid $7,500 for a single-engine Cessna to fly in circles over Texas Southern University campus while pulling a banner that said, "Socialism will kill Houston's economy! Vote Trump 2020!"

For four hours, it chugged around up there. You could hear it everywhere. It was the soundtrack of the night.

You can just imagine Trump's face as he had the banner-plane idea. You can hear him putting in the order. You can see his list of demands. And at the very top, "I WANT THE LOUDEST PLANE YOU CAN FIND!!!"

*

Was that Bret Baier in the aisle, adjusting his reading glasses and thumbing at the strap of his comically small backpack as he crossed the blue-carpeted gymnasium? He looked like the human version of Wisconsin. He was saying something but all you could hear was the plane overhead.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Bret Baier, the stoic host of "Special Report with Bret Baier" on Fox News and the network's chief political anchor. He's underrated, if you ask me. Legacy. Old-school. He just delivers the news, which is what most people want. He talks the way anchors used to talk, with the American accent unique to news anchors even though he was born in New Jersey and raised in Georgia.

I had spent the last year-and-a-half on a series of in-depth profiles on some of the major countercultural figures of our time. People like Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, and Carol Swain. So my first impulse was to rush over to Baier and profile the guy. Nobody else would, after all. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's. But they ought to. The man has a hell of a story.
He joined Fox News a year-and-a-half after it was founded, as the southeast correspondent in Atlanta. A few years later, on a Tuesday in September, nineteen terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners and crashed into America.

When the first plane hit, Fox producers told Baier to just get in his car and drive to New York City. They needed back-up reporters for the next day. When the second plane crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., they said, "Step on it, Baier."

He and his producer were an hour outside Atlanta when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. Still a good 8 hours away, but closer to D.C. than to New York City. So they re-routed to Arlington, Virginia, as fast as they could. Past a blur of fields full of indifferent cows. Past houses full of people who could hardly talk, people who couldn't describe what they were seeing and hearing, all the smoke and the blood and the office-supply confetti. Past towns that barely moved, gas stations with nobody in them, people sunken into a far-away stare.

Yet there was the sun, with only a few bangles of cloud every so often. America had been paralyzed but the earth kept trucking along, quiet and unbothered. It must have felt strange for Baier, to speed down empty highways — toward literal death and chaos — under a perfect sky, below cascading light and color.

Nature doesn't care if we make it out alive.

*

That day, Baier reported live from a Citgo station across the street from the Pentagon, rubble in heaps of flame behind him. It was like he'd fallen onto a different planet and was reporting back to home.

The next day arrived and it was so quiet everywhere. Nobody knew a damn thing. We could not believe our eyes. We all turned to reporters and anchors for answers. Most often, they blurted out whatever they could.

Something about Bret Baier gave audiences a much-needed boost. Reliable, sturdy. Like he said what had to be said and not a word extra.

Fox kept him in D.C., indefinitely. A friend helped him find an apartment. He never went back to Atlanta. Two weeks later, Fox News appointed him Pentagon correspondent, a position that saw him travel the world, including 13 trips to Afghanistan and 12 to Iraq.

Halfway through George W. Bush's second term, Baier became Fox News' White House correspondent.

Then, a year before he would earn his current position as anchor, Baier became a father. His son was born with holes in his heart — five congenital heart defects. Twelve days later, the boy underwent open-heart surgery. Baier and his wife waited in tiled rooms drenched with flowers and ESPN and drab ultraviolet light, surrounded by machines full of beeps and whirring and beeps and whirring.

Baier's son has since undergone two additional open-heart surgeries, nine angioplasties, and one stomach operation. In an interview with Parents Magazine, Baier said that his son's health problems have "given me perspective about my job, going through policy and politics in Washington, D.C., to see the bigger picture."

*Part of the reason I couldn't tell whether or not it was Baier is he's usually up on the main stage. For the 2012 election, he moderated five Republican debates, and co-anchored FNC's America's Election HQ alongside Megyn Kelly.

The 2016 election would propel him into a much larger role. He anchored three Republican debates, but this time he had to handle Donald Trump.

Baier knew Trump personally, from before the election. They'd played golf together. He described Trump as "a nice guy outside of his TV persona" and never thought Trump would actually make a run for the Presidency. Onstage, Trump was much different. And Baier had been tasked with maintaining control.

A devout Roman Catholic, he appreciates a nice glass of wine and a fine cut of steak. He likes a good joke, too. In January, 2019, Baier signed a multi-year deal with Fox News to continue "Special Report." A few weeks later, he and his family went to Montana for a ski trip. The weekend was wonderful. But they had to get back to New York because Baier was scheduled to appear on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that Tuesday.

Imagine him, again in a car hurtling toward a fateful destination. How he squinted through the frost-pocked windshield and gripped the steering wheel. As he guided the white SUV along the two-lane road to the airport. The land looked haunted, barren, lifeless. Everywhere, the world was frozen white. Snow and ice blanketing the fields, gauze over the sky.

At some anonymous intersection, Baier pumped the brakes, but the tires hit an ice patch, and the SUV spun loose. An oncoming car slammed into the driver's side, launching the vehicle into an embankment, wedged on its side. A man named Zach stopped his pickup truck and helped the family crawl free, and the Montana Highway Patrol rushed them to the hospital.

"Don't take anything for granted," Baier tweeted later. "Every day is a blessing and family is everything. It's always good to remind yourself of that before something does it for you."

Before every debate that he moderates, Baier spends 10 minutes alone, praying.

*

A Freedom of Information Act request in 2011 revealed that Fox News was actually right. That the Obama Administration really did hate them. And had intentionally excluded them from a press pool two years earlier. Then laughed about it.

The documents unearthed snarky emails between various high-ranking aides in the Obama Administration. In one, the Deputy White House communications director bemoaned Baier's reporting on the bias. "I'm putting some dead fish in the [Fox News] cubby — just cause Bret Baier is a lunatic." That same day, deputy press secretary Josh Earnest bragged in an email that "we've demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews."

The Trump administration pulled a similar stunt in July, 2018 by banning a CNN reporter from the press pool. Trump and Fox News had developed a beneficial relationship by then. And CNN was a lifelong competitor, a public enemy.
That night, Baier delivered an official statement, "This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press. We demand better. As a member of the White House press pool, Fox stands firmly with CNN on this issue of access."

Fox News rebuked Trump in solidarity with CNN. It was a heartening gesture between two seeming enemies. Fox News were standing up for truth, defending journalism, rejecting tyranny even though the ban would have benefitted them as a company.

Who knows how many books and dissertations and articles have been written about Fox News, usually in relation to bias, usually with a scathing tone. The conclusions differ wildly, yet each one claims certitude.

Generally, academics and journalists have taken a doomsday tone when talking about Fox News. Accusations of evil, fear-mongering, bigotry, hatred, misinformation, propaganda, racism, homophobia, and so on.

Despite these outcries, Fox News has consistently held its spot as the most-watched network in the country. Imagine how that makes its critics feel.

In an August 3, 2018 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Baier said, "the biggest problem is that the people who are most critical of Fox are usually people who have not watched Fox News."

Fox News is composed of two distinct departments. Punditry and straight news. Or "opinion news" and "descriptive news." Consistently, surveys of the public rate Fox News as both the least- and most-biased news network.
Last year, a survey found Fox News to be the second most-trusted television news brand in the country, after the BBC.

In a separate study, Democrats rated its bias score at (negative) -87, while Republicans placed it at (positive) +3. Which is like if, at a football game, one referee said "Touchdown," while the other referee said "Turnover, leading to Touchdown for the Defense." It can't be both, can it?

Public opinion may not be the best metric for understanding Fox News, especially in 2019.

Quantitative studies have offered clearer conclusions. In 2016, a content analysis used crowdsourcing and machine learning to examine over 800,000 news stories published over a year by 15 major outlets, from the New York Times to Fox News. They wanted to chart media bias.

What they discovered is that news outlets are far more similar than we believe. Much of the perceived bias is a matter of separating "opinion news" from "descriptive news." For conservatives, it's punditry. For those on the left, it's op-eds and long form investigative pieces, although the left tends to insist that they're not biased, that they are instead just more apt to tell the truth, even though research has disproven this belief.

The researchers found a much larger bias-divide in opinion news, whereas descriptive news was practically neutral. One of the researchers described Fox News' descriptive news as "guided by similar news values as more traditional, legacy media."

University of California Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild wrote that "Fox News stands next to industry, state government, church, and the regular media as an extra pillar of political culture all its own."

Say what you want about Fox News, they play a crucial role in the so-called mainstream media. And, despite what Fox News will lead you to believe, they are definitely part of the mainstream. And they are by no means the innocent victim. And certainly not powerless. And they have all kinds of problems that I will not defend. But we'll talk about that in a later installment, the one about Kamala Harris at a gun control rally, advocating for propaganda.

*

After two months of political events, I suspected that different news networks have their own signifiers, like the distinct stripes and markings on various spiders.

Wall Street Journal reporters tended to carry old-timey notepads and interview any bystander they could find. Breitbart usually only sent one person, and he wandered around with his iPhone, recording every single thing. Politico, prim-suited men who could just as easily work on the stock market.

Most of the reporters dressed like that, in stagey business attire. Prim for a high school job fair. Meanwhile, the photographers, mostly men, looked like professional paintball players. The camera crews and technical staff were the only ones decked in tattoos and wearing sandals and generally not caring about the chaos all around them. On-camera talent were covered in makeup and shrink-wrapped into dresses or suits with chip-clips along the spine.

The Washington Post sent the classiest and most bored-looking people I have ever encountered. They never looked at their laptops as their fingers chopped at the keys, and you assumed they were pretending until you read their stories online. You could spot ABC because their camera crew wore faded red ABC hats. Associated Press looked like they had just come back from a battlefield assignment in Syria, and never donned the same press credentials as everyone else, preferring a tattered AP lanyard. And you always knew when someone was with the New York Times because they announced it to the entire room.

And Fox News? At democratic events, they usually hid. But not that day, in Houston, as Bret Baier walked up the aisle to a table a couple rows in front of me.

Most people arrived in the Media Filing Center several hours before the debate. Fox News got there just slightly after that, as everyone was wiggling in their seats and connecting their laptops to a shared outlet.

There were seven or so in the pack of Fox News, all grinning. They all had white to-go sacks from Chick-fil-A. And the room got quieter, so Trump's plane got louder. It was a double trolling event.

As host of the debate, ABC would be providing dinner. This information was included in the credentials email that all of us had received. So nobody else had brought food with them. No need.

Even better, I was familiar enough with that part of Houston to know that there was not a Chick-fil-A anywhere close to us. Who knew where they'd gotten that Chick-fil-A, but odds are it wasn't warm. Who knew if there was even any food in the bags.

They had brought Chick-fil-A into a building full of national media during the third Democratic Presidential debate. The 2020 election was already full of outrage about plenty of things, and one of them was Chick-fil-A. To some folks, the red chicken logo might as well have been a swastika. That very week LGBT activists had vehemently — cartoonishly — protested the opening of several Chick-fil-A's throughout North America. Chicken sandwiches had become yet another flag on the tug-of-war rope in the Culture War of our country.

To be clear, the political left was anti-Chicken and the political right was pro-Chicken. The media tended to lean anti-Chicken, and frequently wrote about anti-Chicken causes, often scolding pro-Chicken voices, or ignoring the struggles of the pro-Chicken community only to deny any opinion on Chicken at all. That was the cowardly part, of you ask me, the pretending like they weren't activists.

The Democratic candidates definitely leaned anti-Chicken. Sometimes they took it so far that it upset moderate anti-Chicken advocates. Because was it really so bad to eat Chicken? Couldn't you be anti-Chicken but also enjoy Chicken occasionally? Why did everything have to be either "all Chicken all the time unless you hate freedom" or "no chicken ever unless you support hate"?

The fight had spread everywhere. Airports, stadiums, malls, campuses. All had served as battlegrounds for the anti-Chicken versus the pro-Chicken.

The previous President was anti-Chicken. In fact, he may well have enflamed the entire movement. During his tenure, there were nationwide protests that saw pro-Chicken advocates angrily and proudly eating Chicken while anti-Chicken advocates protested outside and occasionally engaged in homosexual affection, which was being threatened by Chicken, according to them.

Every time the pro-Chicken folks bit into a Chicken sandwich, it was like they were gnawing away at the anti-Chicken people themselves. Degrading their identity. Because, for them, it was about the identity.

But the current President, unabashedly proud of his pro-Chicken stance, once served Chicken at the White House to some winning sports team, and the anti-Chicken activists saw it as proof that Chicken and hate go together. And maybe Chicken would even lead to the impeachment of the President they hate, which would mean the Vice President would become the President, but he's one of the most pro-Chicken people in America, so they'd have to impeach him, too. And the Supreme Court, it was overrun with pro-Chicken types.

This election, the Democratic front-runners competed for the bolder plan. They would end Chicken in America once and for all. They would obliterate our evil President and his Chicken Supremacy. Their stump speeches relied on harsh criticisms of pro-Chicken voters, who pretended to find the whole anti-Chicken movement amusing but were secretly enraged by it. In fact, they were certain that the anti-Chicken movement had been systematically silencing them for years, and that they had to fight for their Chicken in order to keep everything that they valued, even all the not-Chicken.

The media and the democrats and Hollywood and academia — all hated the Chicken, because they hated the pro-Chicken people. If they had their way, no more Chicken, ever again. And no more pro-Chicken deplorables. And tonight the anti-Chicken politico-culture complex would prove it, with long rants which get confirmed by glowing articles, calculated takedowns about the merits of anti-Chicken and the evils of pro-Chicken.

Yet here was Fox News, with actual Chicken. And they were smiling. Maybe in part because the police who were guarding us all tended to be pro-Chicken. And this was Texas, after all, an incredibly pro-Chicken state. But there were 49 other states and 14 territories, and all of them were fighting for or against Chicken.

Some experts even said we were on the cusp of a Civil War.


New installments to this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. For live updates, check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

We've heard the catchphrase "follow the money" so often that it's nearly a joke. It gained added attention in the 1976 movie All the President's Men, which follows the story of the two journalists who uncovered Watergate. "Follow the money," their source told them, "and you'll find corruption."

Problem is, corrupters hide their bad behavior remarkably well. They are masters of disguise. But if you look closely enough, you can spot the seams splitting in their choreographed routine.

One technique that magicians use for psychological misdirection is called the false solution. The goal is to distract the audience, to make them believe that they know what's really happening. All the while, the machinations of the actual trick are happening right in front of them, because "implanting an unlikely and unfamiliar idea in the mind can prevent participants from finding a more obvious one."

Billions of dollars. Lost. Gone.

I want to tell you a story of tremendous corruption, masked cleverly, using many of the same techniques that magicians have used for centuries. Only it's not a rabbit disappearing into a hat or a coin vanishing behind an ear. It's billions of dollars. Lost. Gone.

And the people responsible are the same people who have been so monstrously worked up about Trump's impeachment. The same people screaming about Trump's malfeasance with Ukraine are actually the ones misbehaving in Ukraine.

It's essentially an elevated, highly organized form of projection. Only instead of one person lashing out at the world, it's an entire political party, right up to the top. The very top. Barack Obama. It's right there on video.

Or how about the audio recording we uncovered, with Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine, openly admitting a connection between the DNC and Ukraine?

So far, the story told by the Democrats and the media has been about Trump and Ukraine. Every so often, you hear mention of Joe Biden's dubious history with the war-torn country.

We were the first to talk about Joe Biden's connections to Ukraine back in April, with our candidate profile on Biden.

It turns out, the whole debacle was much worse than we thought. It stretched further than Uncle Joe. What we found out is that the DNC was working with the Ukrainian government.

This isn't a conspiracy theory. And we have the documents to prove it.

Read on to discover everything you need for a 30-second elevator pitch that you can give to your friend and say, "Look, here's what you need to know. Here's what's really going on."

If anyone is guilty, they should go to jail.

Last night, in Ukraine: The Democrats' Russia I revealed the elaborate misdirection taking place.

I said it last night and I'll say it again: If Trump is guilty, he should go to jail. If anyone is guilty, they should go to jail. Because this is too important to the Republic.

Watch the hands, follow the money.

Here are the documents, video, and audio that we found in our reporting. This is the hard evidence that will help you explain this unbelievable situation to other people.



  • June 2016 State Department memos detailing contacts between George Soros' office and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.




As you can see, we did a lot of research on this, and we've done our best to condense it for you. It still requires you to do your own homework, but there's a tremendous freedom to that.

You are seeking the truth.

You are bucking the mainstream media. You are rejecting them. And you are seeking truth. Because they abandoned truth a long time ago and they certainly aren't interested in recovering it now.