The Roger Stone Arrest Shows Mueller Grasping at Straws

Tom DiGennaro | United States

Early Friday morning, federal authorities placed Roger Stone, a longtime aide to President Trump, under arrest. The FBI took him into custody under obstruction of justice charges regarding the Russian hacking of several key Democrats’ emails during the 2016 election season. This is the first criminal case Mueller’s special investigation has brought in months. Without a doubt, the investigation is at this point just grasping at straws.

Roger Stone has been a personal confidant of Trump. At one point, he was a formal advisor during the presidential campaign. Despite this, he has not officially been a part of the administration since 2015.

The Mueller investigation did not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks or Russian officials. Rather, his indictment alleges making false statements to Congress about his involvement with wiki-leaks.

One must certainly question how it is a crime to (allegedly) seek out information on when WikiLeaks plans on publicizing material. One must also certainly question how it is not a crime to be “extremely careless” with classified emails as Secretary of State and deleting classified government emails related to Benghazi.

Grasping at Straws over Roger Stone

Failed attempts to indict President Trump have included going after Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, and countless others. Even before Robert Mueller began his crusade, former FBI Director James Comey, who cleared Hillary Clinton of any criminal wrongdoing, was grasping at the same straws. This attack on Stone simply for knowing about a WikiLeaks release of information (which the American public should have been aware of, anyway) is not even in the ballpark of colluding with Russian hackers or officials. However, Democrats, the FBI, and mainstream media would have you believe otherwise.

Will Mueller try to use Roger Stone as a government witness against President Trump? Will these charges stick? And will President Trump ever be indicted on related charges? Impeached? Are these charges anything but an absurd attempt to stir up more conflict for the sake of conflict?

As of right now, it appears the answer to each of these is a fervent no.


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Xanax Makes Doctors Rich and People More Anxious

Cassandra Twining | United States

Doctors in the United States write 50 million Xanax prescriptions per year. That’s over one prescription per second. You can buy 30 Xanax pills at your local pharmacy for on average $100. That amounts to five billion dollars being spent on Xanax every single year. But what exactly is Xanax and how does it work?

Xanax, also commonly known by its cheaper off-brand counterpart Alprazolam, is a Benzodiazepine. It is commonly used to treat general anxiety disorder, panic disorders, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are a specific category of drug that works in specific receptors in your brain. The Benzodiazepines, in this instance, Xanax, attaches to the gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA-A) receptors in your brain and diminish sensitivity to stimulation, which in turn produces the calming effect so many people love. Xanax is listed by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a schedule 4 drug. This essentially means that it is the second least likely to lead to addiction and it is very safe to take. At least according to their classification that is… So let’s look a little more into what exactly Xanax does to your brain along with the long term effects.

Treating anxiety disorders can be very difficult for some people because of the vast amount of kinds of ways anxiety can present itself. While Xanax is not the only option for treating anxiety medically, it is certainly the most commonly prescribed and most well-known option. There are 3 fundamental problems with Xanax and its long term effects on the brain.

Treating Symptoms, not Problems

The first problem being that Xanax doesn’t stop one’s anxiety, it merely numbs it. When the medication goes into the receptors in your brain and dims the sensation in the brain it effectively reduces the release of the chemicals in your brain that causes anxiety. However, the issue arises from the fact that a reduction of the release of the chemicals does not mean they go away, it just builds up.

This is why when people try to quit taking Xanax or the dosage they took wears off the anxiety feelings not only come back but comes back more forcefully. It’s essentially like sweeping dirt under a rug; it’s still there and it’s still going to affect you eventually. The problem is just continuing to build up and get worse.

This problem is enhanced by the second problem faced with Xanax: it has an incredibly short half-life. Meaning that the amount of time it takes for the drug to completely leave your system is really quick. Which makes people want to take more of the medication even when they’re not scheduled to because of the adverse effects that come when it wears off.

Xanax Addiction and Overdose

Both problems, in turn, contribute to the third and final problem that Xanax is highly addictive. Because of the short half-life, the increase in anxiety when it wears off, and the effectiveness of the drug, people quickly become both physically and emotionally dependant on Xanax as a treatment for their anxiety.

It is also very possible to overdose on Xanax, especially taken with other opioids or alcohol. In 2015 over 30,000 drug overdose deaths were the result of opioids mixed with benzos like Xanax. It is also important to note that these numbers of Xanax use are only those prescribed by doctors; Xanax is also a very commonly used recreational drug. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars from prescribing and encouraging the consumption of a drug that is continuing to increase the amounts of anxiety and addiction in our country.

Treating Anxiety

Nevertheless, anxiety is a very real and serious issue. So what can people do to change the current system for go to treatment options? A community health center in Louisville, Kentucky started to notice how the mass amounts of Xanax prescriptions for patients were not only dangerous but also a drain on their resources.

Because of the lack of education surrounding the long term effects of Xanax they were also spending an enormous amount of time just simply educating people about it. This is why they decided to switch to prescribing clonazepam a similar drug with less adverse long term effects. They are trying to completely wean their patients off of Xanax altogether. There are some people who do truly benefit from its effects. However, it is such a dangerous drug that the risk just doesn’t appear to continue to be worth it.

Non-prescription Treatments

Finally, there are a lot of ways to try and alleviate anxiety using natural methods of treatment. Exercising can release endorphins and be a cathartic experience that can help with anxious feelings. Meditation and relaxation exercises like slowly relaxing each muscle group and breathing techniques can also help. You can also try reading, writing, natural medical treatments, or anything you may feel will help.

It’s most important to remember that anxiety isn’t the same for everyone and what might work for you might not work for someone else. It takes hard work and bravery to evaluate your options and find the best course of treatment for you. It’s okay to not want to try modern medical solutions, and it’s okay to want to! What’s not okay is not having the full story of how these solutions actually affect you. Do your research and make sure you’re not just making the problem worse while trying to solve it.


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Nick Sandmann, MAGA Hat Kid: The Hidden Story

Mark West | United States

Last weekend was a bit of a blunder for me. I watched several viral videos surrounding what happened at the National Mall that spread on social media. Angered at what I perceived as disrespect, I made a snap judgment. I shared the first meme I noticed concerning the issue on Facebook. I had to partake in the political discussion on this controversy, right?

The narrative pitted the Covington Catholic High School students, many of which were white, male, and sporting MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats, against a group of Native Americans. The two groups had been involved in separate rallies on the National Mall that day. The Covington Catholic students were leaving a March for Life rally while the Native Americans had just finished an Indigenous Peoples March.

Both were about to intersect in a manner that would spark an unintentional national controversy.

A scene consisting of a what appeared to be a stare-down between Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann and Native American activist Nathan Phillips immediately split the national audience into regiments. The still shots from the video cast Sandmann in a negative light, with a smug, disrespectful smile on his face.

The Mainstream Media Story

We were incessantly informed by the mainstream media that Phillips heroically confronted the students as they chanted “Build That Wall” at the Native American protestors. An image serving to reinforce the narrative that racial motivations and anger are the motives for support of the southern border wall.

Erroneously, I believed the mainstream media reporting and shared the meme I mentioned previously. However, a close friend cared enough to hint that a full-version video was accessible on the internet. I found it, watched it, and I realized I was dreadfully wrong. Of course, I also deleted the meme I ignorantly shared.

The Hidden Story

Now, I’m not here to tell you what happened at the National Mall. Most of us have already decided our version of the timelines and our judgments of the intentions of the participants. What I am here to report is the hidden story of the MAGA hat kid.

The hidden story of the MAGA hat kid is the tribalism that drives each of us to ignore context while making snap judgments that fit our own narratives. I’ll pull a little gospel principle in by quoting D.A. Carson who said, “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text”. In other words, if you ignore the context you will get the wrong message.

I got the wrong message, initially, because I was lacking the context to make sense of what was going on. There is an unfortunate occurrence in political conversation in our society. Far too often, we use pretexts and proof texts to reinforce our tribal view.

Our failure to contextualize is contributing to the erosion of political debate. We should thoroughly examine the context and all the information available to us. An opinion should be formed based on the previous. Instead, we almost always have our pre-disposed opinions. Consequently, we seek only the facts that offer support. The stare-down at the National Mall highlights just that.

Tribalism Exposed

I’ve witnessed the anti-Trump crowd attacking Sandmann and his school over racism, as well as doxxing he and his classmates. Simultaneously, the MAGA crowd is attacking Phillips’ character and motives. The tribes are at war even though I’m not convinced that the principles themselves ever were. Through all of the back-and-forth, the demagoguery hurled by the Black Hebrew Israeliteswhich served as the flashpoint that escalated the tense scenario, has been largely ignored.

My first exposure to the tribalism that dominates our political process came as I listened to President Obama’s supporters chanting, “Yes We Can”, at campaign rallies. I spent the next eight years trying to have reasonable policy conversations with people who could never hold the man they supported accountable. They had their pretexts and ignored any contexts.

During the 2016 campaign, I saw a new emergence on the other side. Watching President Trump’s campaign rallies filled with chants of, “Build That Wall”, and “Lock Her Up”, I realized that I would spend President Trump’s tenure trying desperately to have the same conversations with folks who are out to get the Democrats back for President Obama’s term. They also have their pretexts and ignore any contexts.

So, instead of discussing what really happened and using the lessons as instructive to the society around us, we’re instead hedging into our tribes. We are devoting our energy to ensuring that we prop up those in our tribe while viscerally attacking those of the other. The tribalism is driving the context out of the conversation.

I’m Just as Guilty as You Are

Disclaimer: I’m not speaking from an ivory tower. I’m not exempt in my own tendencies to fall into tribal politics as well, as noted earlier in this column. However, my goal is to objectively focus on facts in their appropriate context, as best I can.

If we are going to secure a society of liberty for future generations to enjoy it is vital that we restore contextual facts to the political debate. Our tribes are not always right, and the other tribes are not always wrong. Our tribes haven’t cornered the market on patriotic fervor any more than the other tribes have un-American sentiment.

The Dire Consequences

Now, tribalism itself isn’t the issue, that’s not the takeaway here. The problem is ignoring reality in order to preserve the ideals of our tribe. In a way, our tribes become more important to us than our nation. When we allow our national fabric to be ripped apart for the sake of our tribe winning, we all lose.

We are all people and we bring a variety of perspectives to the same set of facts. Hence the necessity that we appropriately contextualize the facts at hand. Otherwise, we just continue the evisceration of political dialogue in our nation and become further polarized against our neighbors. If we don’t improve talking through our differences, our differences will manifest into the very things that will threaten the future of liberty in our nation.


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Wait, Who is Bill Weld?

John Keller | United States

William Floyd Weld was born July 31st, 1945 in Smithtown, New York. Growing up, he pursued education fiercely and graduated with a degree in classics from Harvard and a degree in economics from Oxford. Following a full time “career” in education, he turned his attention to the law. His first experience in law was as a consul to the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. After the committee was dissolved following the impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon, Bill Weld ran to be the Massachusetts Attorney General in 1978. Although losing, Ronald Reagan saw his talent and made him the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

A Man of Law

During his five years as a federal attorney, he launched an ongoing investigation into public corruption, most notably in the administration of Boston Mayor Kevin White. His investigation lead to the arrest of over 20 public officials, all of which plead guilty or were proven guilty in a court of law. The Boston Globe wrote, “[Weld] has been by far the most visible figure in the prosecution of financial institutions.” In his 111 cases as a federal attorney, he won 109 of them.

Due to the surprising success of Bill Weld, Ronald Reagan saw to it that he was promoted within the Justice Department. Weld became responsible for overseeing all federal prosecutions, including the cases handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). He served until 1988 when he, as well as Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns and four aides, resigned in protest of the misconduct of Attorney General Edwin Meese. Following his resignation, he testified to Congress. Shortly following his testimony on the corruption of the Attorney General, Edwin Meese resigned.

A Republican Governor in a Liberal State

After a short hiatus from politics, Bill Weld announced his bid for the governorship of Massachusetts. Massachusetts was an overwhelmingly liberal state, as highlighted in the 1986 gubernatorial election when the Republican candidate received less than 30% of the vote. Bill Weld, however, was not the typical conservative and ran on a platform of social tolerance and fiscal responsibility – winning both the Republican vote and most moderate Democrats. He was able to win the election by a close margin of 3.25% of the vote.

In his first term, Bill Weld went to work trying to lowering taxes and unemployment. He cut taxes 21 times and brought unemployment in Massachusetts from the highest in the 11 most industrial states to the lowest; even balancing the budget. He began battling corruption in the welfare system by a work-for-welfare system – slashing welfare spending.  His reforms and administration was overwhelmingly popular and when re-election time came in 1994, Bill Weld won re-election with 70.85% of the vote; in a state where only 14% of the electorate was part of the Republican Party. Bill Weld kept his reforms going, and seeing that he had served Massachusetts so well he hoped to bring his reforms to the nation and ran for senate in 1996 against incumbent John Kerry (D).

A Libertarian Leader

Bill Weld went on a hiatus from public life and politics following the turn of the century. As the Republican Party began losing its small-government conservative values of the 20th Century, Bill Weld began losing confidence in the Republican Party. After working on the Romney for President campaign in 2012, he left the Grand Old Party (GOP) and became a Libertarian, aligning with his views of small government in the economy, the lives of the people, and in peace, whether domestic or foreign.

In 2016 he sought the Libertarian nomination for Vice President. At the convention, following Gary Johnson’s renomination for president, having formerly run in 2012, Bill Weld was elected to be the Vice Presidential Nominee; receiving the support of 441 of the 872 delegates. He entered the campaign trail alongside Gary Johnson, the former republican governor of New Mexico, who served while Bill Weld was governor of Massachusetts.

“The dragon that I’m jousting against this year is this frozen monopoly of the two parties that have frozen a lot of people’s thinking in place and they think, ‘I have to be a right-winger,’ or, ‘I have to be a left-winger.’ They’re not thinking, ‘What do I think?’” – Bill Weld, on ReasonTV (2016)

It was largely the campaigning of Bill Weld, with his clarity on issues and clean presentation in interviews, in the divisive election of 2016 that led the Libertarian ticket to poll at 12% – almost getting the ticket into the presidential and vice presidential debates. Bill Weld proved to be a warrior of freedom wielding the Javelin of Justice and Shield of Sacrifice, bringing the Libertarian Party to its greatest year ever. The future for Bill Weld is unknown, but it is known that it is bright, for so few gave so much to such a noble cause.

For his dedication to prosperity while governor, his devotion to justice as a U.S. Attorney General, and his dedication to civil liberties while the libertarian vice-presidential nominee, it is clear that Bill Weld defines what a modern day renaissance man is, and is worthy of tribute for his many accomplishments.


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Israel and the American-Made Power Vacuum in Syria

Michael Ottavio | United States

On January 21st, Israel announced that they had struck multiple Iranian targets in Syria following a missile attack that was intercepted by Israeli defense systems.  This major escalation follows the beginning of U.S. troops withdrawing from the area at the start of the month.

In a strong message to Tehran, Israel launched wide-ranging strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.  This missile strike came in response to an Iranian surface-to-surface missile fired towards the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.  The Iranian missile that was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system originated from an Iranian occupied area outside of Damascus, roughly 31 miles from the Golan Heights area.

Back and Forth

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the missile strike hit munition storage sites and a military training camp, as well as another Iranian occupied site near Damascus international airport.  Israel has stated that they made Syria aware of the strike and warned them not to interfere, but the Israeli missile strike turned on Syrian air defense systems after they began firing on the Israeli jets carrying out the strike.

All this escalation comes after a very volatile few months and talks of a total U.S. withdrawal from Syria.  According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), this was the “most intense and violent attack against the regime forces and their allies in terms of casualties since May 2018.”  Israel continues to take a hard stance against the Iranian presence in Syria, and now as the last pillar of stability in the Middle East, they must vehemently defend their borders from hostile nations.

Two Powers Collide

The United States is now in the beginning stages of withdrawing their troops from Syria after they once again intervened in a war that was none of their business.  The departure of American forces is going to cause more destabilization, so why did we get involved in the first place? Back in 2017, the American mindset was manipulated with pictures of war zones and deadly attacks. A need for immediate action became almost unanimous.  While it is very unfortunate, people die in conflicts all around the world and there’s almost never a call to intervene. That may be due to the fact that Russia isn’t involved in every other conflict, but they are heavily involved in Syria.

In September of 2015, Russia started a military intervention in the Syrian Civil War,  in which they fully support the government of al-Assad. Then in April of 2017, less than two years since Russia began intervening in the Syrian Civil War, the United States launched its first attack on a Syrian target.  In an ever-growing need to impede Russian imperialism, the United States entered into yet another conflict to oppose the Assad regime.  It would soon become readily apparent this was not a conflict that was going to be quickly resolved by lobbing missiles at an already destabilized area.

Just like the last Middle Eastern country the U.S. got involved in, we launched our first strike under the guise of deterring the use of deadly chemical weapons. That sounds familiar, right?  It’s almost as if the United States didn’t learn its lesson in Iraq when the power vacuum that formed after dismantling the Saddam regime led to the perfect platform for the terrorist group ISIS to gain a legitimate foothold in the Middle East.

One thing is certain we have not seen the end of the violence in Syria, and Iran has shown no signs of backing down. The United States has, once again, participated in the destabilization of an area, leaving before the conflict has been resolved.  By launching this strike Israel has sent a clear message to Tehran that even in the absence of the United States they are not backing down and will continue to oppose all Iranian operations inside of Syria.

As a nation that has been built, funded, and supplied by the United States, Israel is more than capable of handling the situation on their own. The United States needs to learn from their mistakes and turn away from the old imperialist mindset because every single time we invade a middle eastern country it blows up in not only our faces but our allies as well.  We are not the world police, we need to bring our troops home and keep them here.


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