Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sons of Liberty: A Review

Nelson Hultberg

History channel, January 25-27, 2015.
Directed by Kari Skogland; written by Stephen David and David C. White.

The History channel's new miniseries, Sons of Liberty, will anger the purists and the prudes. But it will delight the swashbuckler in the rest of us. It is a big, bodacious screening with superb production values that covers the lead-up years to the American Revolution, 1765-1775. Yes, certain liberties are taken with some of the facts and events. The main characters are glamorized. But the essential theme of America's birth is kept intact: we as a nation were spawned by a band of rebels made up of assorted firebrands, smugglers, and philosophers all coalescing together under the rubric of Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man." Besides, what depiction of history is not romanticized by making the main characters a bit handsomer and younger than they, perhaps, were. Certainly not any depiction made for television.

The main character striding through Sons of Liberty is the famous Samuel Adams, played robustly by British actor, Ben Barnes, who doesn't give us an actualization of Adams' role in history, but rather a symbolization of it. First of all, Barnes is in his early thirties, and Adams was 51 years old when he fomented the Boston Tea Party. So the producers of Sons of Liberty are trying to give us the symbolic Sam Adams and what his role was in the creation of America. Sam Adams was the quintessential rebel mind. He didn't have the scholarly genius of Thomas Jefferson, but he had a brilliant revolutionary mind. And valor permeated his entire life. He blended mind and defiance as well as, and perhaps better than, any of our Founders.

Sam Adams told his fellow patriots in 1773 in the build-up to the Boston Tea Party, "It does not take a majority to prevail...but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."

This is what brings about all revolutionary change in history - small minorities of men and women fervently committed to a cause that will require courage and resourcefulness to bring into fruition. Yes, luck is also necessary, but mostly courage and resourcefulness because luck eventually descends upon us all. It's the ones with courage who ride the luck into history and change the fate of mankind. Sam Adams and the "Sons of Liberty" were these kind of men. They seized the opportunity that the arrogant, blundering British gave to them.

The valor of Sam Adams was the spark that made him one of our most important Founders. As we all know, the colonists were by no means united. Sons of Liberty portrays this Rebel-Tory division clearly, and it demonstrates how remarkable the likes of Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Dr. Joseph Warren were. They were willing to break from the security and stability of life under the British Crown to venture into uncharted waters for a new future - a break that offered them certain death or prison if they failed, yet they eagerly proceeded. In the process they galvanized a band of rebels and lit the match to "the shot heard round the world."

The Partnership

In the first segment, we see Sam Adams and John Hancock initiate their partnership, which eventually leads to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Adams is a scruffy, roguish firebrand, while Hancock is portrayed as a rich, cautious, unbearably foppish socialite who relies on trade and imports to bring him the lavish life he desires. In dddition, the director, Kari Skogland, has him constantly urging Adams and his band of street rebels to "stop their insanity." Unfortunately this is not the historical Hancock at all. Yet at every turn, Skogland and her writers insist on painting this false picture of Hancock as timidly opposing the rebellion, even opposing the dumping of the tea into Boston Harbor.

All historical records clearly show Hancock was a vigorous supporter of the colonial protests against the British from 1765 on in concert with Adams. Yet Skogland has him reluctantly and timidly dragging his feet throughout these crucial years. Hancock was not a warrior, but he was very much a willing rebel who financed the agitations and the dumping of the tea. He was upper class, yes, but hardly a fop. He fervently favored the revolution, and served admirably in various roles of political leadership for the American cause from the beginning. For some reason, however, Skogland's writers have quite incorrectly portrayed him. Not good.

The British Are Coming

In the second segment, we are introduced to the tyrannical British Gen. Thomas Gage (played to menacing perfection by Marton Csokas) and also to the renowned Paul Revere and his epic ride (played forcefully by the rugged Michael Raymond-James). Revere was a silversmith, but he had a warrior persona. The Boston Tea Party is presented in a sensationalized manner with Sam Adams standing astride one of the ships to stare down a regiment of British regulars with muskets raised on the wharf, daring them to shoot him. Quisling Governor Hutchinson arrives just in time to halt the British regiment leader for fear of making the heroic Adams into a martyr.

If director, Skogland, is lacking in historical accuracy, she is certainly not deficient in the ability to entertain her viewers. She gives us action, conflict, suspense, and charismatic characters we care about, as well as a salacious romance between Dr. Joseph Warren and Gen. Gage's ravishing wife, Margaret, played by Emily Berrington. Ryan Eggold is very appealing as the clever and courageous Dr. Joseph Warren. Berrington is pristinely beautiful as Margaret Gage. Their love affair is total fiction; but it's insertion into the story allows Sons of Liberty to avoid being just a litany of politics and battles. It becomes a sexy romp as well. After all, America's rebels were not prudes; they lusted after women in their day as we do in ours. This tale is not meant to be a staid documentary with sidebar commentaries by dreary Doris Goodwin types. It is meant to be a TV blockbuster. Sex is necessary for that.

Lexington and Bunker Hill

The third and final segment begins with the British rout of the rebels at Lexington Green on April 19, 1775 and the following rebel victory at the Concord munitions storage. Thus begins our War for Independence. These and the later battle scenes are carried off spectacularly with big sophisticated production values. The Concord surprise victory for the rebels shakes Gage and his troops severely, which is demonstrated by Gage's hurried request to London for more troops and his demand to recklessly attack the rebels at Bunker Hill despite the certainty of heavy British casualties and warnings from his subordinate officers. Gage is vile and icy in demeanor. He will surely go down as one of the great villains of TV entertainment. There is a grisly inhumanity about the man. Gen. Washington termed him a ruthless cancer.

At John Adams' insistence, our rebel heroes then pay a visit to Benjamin Franklin for advice and support. Apparently the historical Franklin is not in Skogland's memory bank either, for the Franklin we encounter here seems more like a brawny biker with a Harley outside at the hitching post. He is played by Breaking Bad's robustious Dean Norris. He pours forth the braininess we expect from Franklin, but Skogland has injected a few choice morsels of modern dialogue into his part. "You're talking about a new country," he informs a startled contingent of Sam and John Adams, and Paul Revere. They reply hesitantly that they guess they are, to which Franklin responds, "That's a bat shit crazy idea." But he assures them that he agrees with this crazy idea. Inserting modern slang into the revered mouths of the Founders may be "progressive" and "avant-garde" to Skogland, but to me it is a stink bomb for the script.

Next comes the Battle of Bunker Hill, and it is as gritty and grotesque as a battle can be. Huge casualties are suffered by the rebels as they are overrun by the monster British war machine and Gage's fanaticism. In the aftermath, Gen. Washington, who up till now has remained a non-participant in the rebel hostilities, manifests as the heroic leader we know from history and assures the rebels that all is not lost. A fierce war is coming, but he will lead them.

The finale is a stirring speech for liberty by Sam Adams in front of the delegates of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in July of 1776 that prefaces the signing of the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock inscribes his now famous signature to the storied document, a war begins, and a new country is born.

The Lesson for Us Today

In conclusion, Sons of Liberty is far from accurate history, but it is splendid entertainment. Most importantly it is true to the fundamental fount of America - that we were spawned by a new philosophical vision of strictly limited government instituted to protect men's rights rather than manipulate men's lives.

How did these scruffy "Sons of Liberty," and the rag-tag army they morphed into, pull off defeating the most powerful military force in the world at that time? They did it because there exists a dynamic force in our lives that all tyrannical systems lack and all rational revolutionaries possess - moral truth!  This is what brings the most powerful of tyrannies down. No matter how much military or regulatory control they possess, no matter how ruthless they are - they are always vulnerable in face of men and women who are in possession of truth and willing to take a moral stand against overwhelming odds. Moral truth connected to unbending human will is what eventually destroys the most entrenched of evil.

We have this force on our side today in the crisis we now face, which is identical in principle to the crisis our Founders faced. We possess the same "moral truth" that they had, and we can use it to overcome today's Washington tyrants. We just have to design the right strategy to implement it. There are countless Americans out there just waiting for the right mix of political savvy and passion to come along and sweep them up into a crusade.

In 1776, the Tories timidly hid behind closed doors where it was safe and popular. They wallowed in pessimism and lamented that nothing could be done. The British were too strong. Why make a big fuss? But the rebels - men like Samuel Adams and John Hancock, Paul Revere and Joseph Warren - would have none of it. They knew they had moral truth on their side, and that the British Gargantua would fall precisely because of that. And if they weren't absolutely certain they would prevail, they knew they still must fight, or their lives were meaningless. This is the lesson we glean from the Sons of Liberty for our lives today.

Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Dr. Joseph Warren are eternal archetypes of what is required as human beings to live freely and justly. If you missed this original History channel presentation of their fight, it will come around again. Don't miss its rerun.

Nelson Hultberg is a freelance scholar/writer in Dallas, Texas and the Director of Americans for a Free Republic His articles have appeared over the past twenty years in such publications as The Dallas Morning News, American Conservative, Insight, Liberty, The Freeman, and The Social Critic, as well as on numerous Internet sites such as Capitol Hill Outsider, Conservative Action Alerts, Daily Paul, Canada Free Press, and The Daily Bell. He is the author of The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values. Email:

Friday, January 16, 2015

U.S. Department of Justice Shuts Down Major Aspect of its Civil Forfeiture Program

Property Rights Protected, but More Needs to Be Done

Holder's order
Department of Justice release
Washington Post story that broke the news
Arlington, VA.Marking an important shift in federal law enforcement policy, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the U.S. Department of Justice’s adoption program—which permits state law enforcement agencies to turn seized properties over to the federal government for forfeiture—will be suspended.

But the Justice Department policy does nothing to limit the widely used and sweeping power of the federal government, or joint federal and state task forces, to seize Americans’ property based on nothing but suspicion.

“This important change in policy will strengthen protections for property owners who stand to lose their cash, cars, and other property without being convicted of or even charged with a crime” said Scott Bullock, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading legal advocate against civil forfeiture. “But it is essential that greater protections for property owners must follow at the federal level and in the states to ensure that Americans are no longer victimized by civil forfeiture.” 

The announcement by Attorney General Holder follows a growing wave of criticism and outrage about the government’s forfeiture practices. Federal legislation that would sharply curtail the federal government’s civil forfeiture program, including adoption, was introduced last session and is expected to be introduced again soon.

Under civil forfeiture laws, law enforcement can take property suspected of involvement in criminal activity without convicting or charging the owner with a crime. At the federal level and in most states, agencies involved in the forfeiture, including prosecutors and police departments, can keep some or all of the proceeds for their own use. 
Today’s announced policy would stop the process of adoption, where state and local officials use federal law to forfeit property without charging owners with a crime and then profit from those forfeitures, regardless of whether those forfeitures are permitted under state law.  But the new policy leaves open a significant loophole, as state and local law enforcement can still partner with federal agents through joint task forces for forfeitures not permitted under state law, and state and local law enforcement can use such task forces to claim forfeiture proceeds they would not be entitled to under state law.  Moreover, the federal government can still pursue its own civil forfeiture actions, where property owners face very significant burdens.  And the policy does not change state forfeiture laws, many of which burden property owners and permit policing for profit.

IJ is the nation’s leading legal advocate against civil forfeiture. IJ launched its initiative against civil forfeiture in 2010 with the publication of its path-breaking report, Policing for Profit.  That report first exposed the federal government’s pernicious practice of equitable sharing and adoption procedures.  IJ’s initiative against civil forfeiture consists of cutting-edge court battles on behalf of property owners facing civil forfeiture, strategic research, and grassroots activism calling for ending or radically changing civil forfeiture law.  In 2014, IJ launched, a wide-ranging online initiative to educate and activate citizens and legislators to fight civil forfeiture.

“Civil forfeiture should not exist in a country that values the principles of private property rights and due process,” said Chip Mellor, IJ’s President and General Counsel. “Now is the time to enshrine today’s policy change into the law and to pass further reforms to ensure that no American loses their property without being convicted of a crime.”

Monday, January 05, 2015

Taking Over the Republican Party

Nelson Hultberg

One of the biggest fallacies in politics today is the claim that we, as conservatives and libertarians, can only be effective if we stay loyal to the Republican Party and work to gain control of it by electing more free-market conservatives every election year.

We at AFR believe such thinking to be tragically misguided. To expect the Republican Party to challenge the modern day juggernaut of statism is as foolish as expecting socialist professors to instill Americanism into our youth. It won't happen anymore than the planets will one day reverse their orbits. This is because the members of the GOP hierarchy who control the party have bought into the  collectivist ideologies of Karl Marx and J.M. Keynes. Thus they want the same thing that Democrats want - a society in which "equality of results" replaces "equality of rights." They merely want it to be established more gradually than do the Democrats.

Conservatives have been trying to take over the GOP for more than 40 years now by electing "conservative legislators" to Congress; yet nothing has changed. The Republican Party continues to give us relentlessly expanding government. It continues to exploit, lie to, and make fools out of conservatives.

Those who continue to cling to the hope that they can transform the Republican Party into an engine of freedom are like battered wives who continue to stick around to take their husbands abusive beatings. The marriage is over. Conservatives, libertarians, and patriots must abandon the GOP.

The GOP Hierarchy

The problem with the conservative strategy is that electing conservative legislators to Congress can never bring about a takeover of the party because the GOP hierarchy buys off 90 percent of the legislators that we send. Who and what is this GOP hierarchy? It is the vast network of elite intellectuals, bankers, and corporate leaders throughout America that make up the "neoconservative establishment."

The intellectual sector of this hierarchy is comprised of prominent scholars and pundits such as William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Norman Podhoretz, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Charles Krauthammer - prestigious organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Hudson Institute, and the Foreign Policy Initiative - scholarly magazines such as Foreign Affairs, Commentary, Public Interest, and The Weekly Standard.

Completing the hierarchy are the major bankers of the Federal Reserve system and the myriad of corporate moguls throughout the nation. The members of this GOP hierarchy call themselves "neoconservative" because it makes it easier for them to sell massive statism to the American people. Unfortunately allegiance to the founding principles of America is not in their lexicon.

These prominent scholars, pundits, bankers, moguls, and institute heads are not true conservatives (and they are certainly not libertarian) because they don't believe in the fundamental base of America - which is the Founders' spirit of free enterprise and limited government. Yet this GOP hierarchy continues to claim that its Republican Party is a vehicle for freedom and adherence to the Constitution. They make such a claim because they know Americans still adhere to such values. But their claim is as deceptive as the pickpocket's brush against your coat in a crowded subway.

The scholars, pundits, bankers, moguls, and institute heads of this hierarchy wield great power, both ideologically and financially - enough so to buy off most of the incoming patriotic congressmen. Such newcomers to Washington adopt the GOP hierarchy's "pseudo conservatism" soon after their arrival in the capital because they know if they don't vote in step with neoconservatism, they will receive no ideological and financial support for re-election from the party and its influential hierarchy.

Preferring an easy road to re-election, almost all new patriot arrivals, thus, sell out their "true conservative" principles to stay in Washington. They cross over the aisle and gradually turn into advocates of statism. This is why sending conservatives to Congress has gotten us nowhere over the past four decades and will get us nowhere in the future. Incoming conservatives don't stay conservative; they are bought off. Lord Acton told us why over a century ago.

Thus it is impossible to take over the Republican Party by just sending more conservative legislators to Washington. To get control of the GOP, we first have to replace the neocon ideologues who control the party - i.e., the hierarchy. A whole new generation of scholars, pundits, bankers, moguls, and institute heads will have to be ushered in. This will require 70-80 years to bring about. Shifts of this magnitude take many decades. America doesn't have this kind of time.

Ideological Change Works Slowly

As proof, let's examine the time span of liberalism's takeover of the Republican Party. The actual political takeover began with Richard Nixon in 1968. But liberalism's "political takeover" of the GOP had to be preceded first by its "ideological takeover" of the educational institutions of America - the schools, the churches, the media, the publishers, and the movie industry.

This is why converting the Republican Party to "freedom and conservatism" (as many Tea Party members and other activists are trying to do) can never happen. Because conservatives do not control the schools, the churches, the media, the publishers, and the movie industry in this country. These were the vital factors in liberalism's takeover of the GOP during the 20th century. These five institutions relentlessly spewed out collectivism, which shaped the minds and motives of the scholars, pundits, bankers, moguls, and institute heads who joined the GOP and formed its present hierarchy. Without this "mind shaping," liberalism could not have taken over the Republican Party.

Thus if conservatives are to take over the GOP, it will require that we first gain ideological control of the the schools, the churches, the media, the publishers, and the Hollywood movie studios so as to shape a new hierarchy. This will require at least 70 years to accomplish (assuming we can actually do it).

The liberal takeover of these cultural institutions was a 70-year process that began in the early 20th century with the Progressives' encroachments into our school system and then throughout the rest of our society. Seventy years later they had gained control of the GOP during the Nixon-Ford administrations and made it the little sister to the Democrat Party. But they were only able to do this because they had also gained control of the schools, churches, media, publishers, and Hollywood.

Turning a political party around is like turning a huge aircraft carrier around. There is a delay between the time you start turning the steering helm to when the ship finally completes its turn. The steering helm of a political party is the ideology of its hierarchy, which is determined by the schools, churches, media, publishers, and movie industry. These five institutions must be turned first if the party itself is to be turned. This cannot be done overnight.

Therefore, if conservatives intend to take over control of the GOP, they must prepare for a 70 year struggle. Unfortunately, America doesn't have this kind of time. Economic collapse looms over the horizon. And tyranny looms on the other side of the collapse like it has with all political-economic breakdowns of countries throughout history. In times of disintegrating chaos and peril, people who are ignorant of the causes of their chaos and breakdown always opt for order and stability in the form of regimentation and dictatorship.

Freedom's Last Stand

There is a chance, however, to save the country if we can avoid the dictatorial takeover that is sure to be promoted in the aftermath of the coming collapse. But to do this, the American people must be told the truth about what has brought on the economic crises we are experiencing at present, and what must be done to properly climb out of the economic mega-crisis that looms up ahead.

We must climb out of the coming collapse in the direction of the Founding Fathers and decentralized government, not in the direction of the globalists and World Government. Unfortunately the Democrat and Republican hierarchies are committed globalists, ideologically poisoned by the Marxian-Keynesian brainwash that has been seeping into America for many decades. They will never work to return to the Founding Fathers; they will work fervently to usher in a New World Order, a World Bank, and the elimination of American sovereignty.

But there is still a chance to save freedom because a sizeable sector of the people still favor freedom. Most conservatives, libertarians, independents, and blue-collar Democrats (50 percent of the voters) remain opposed to Marxism-Keynesianism if the rudiments are clearly explained to them. They still believe in "honest money" and "limited government." All they need is a courageous, conservative political candidate to explain how we must get back to such values.

Thus we must bypass the Republican Party and go directly to the people. We must launch an Independent political campaign that will tell the truth to American voters about the Democrat-Republican monopoly and how it is smuggling us into a centralized dictatorship via Marxism and Keynesianism.

Stopping the Drift

In conclusion, trying to take over the Republican Party by voting in more true conservative congressmen will never stop America's dictatorial drift. We've been attempting to do this for over four decades now. And the freedom advocates we send to Washington continue to get bought off by neoconservatism as fast as we send them.

There's a much better way to fight. Our goal at AFR is to recruit a prominent free-market conservative such as Ted Cruz or Mike Lee or Michele Bachmann to run an Independent campaign on AFR's Four Pillars of Reform for our tax, monetary, immigration, and foreign policy systems in the next presidential election (like Ross Perot in 1992). By going directly to the people with the truth, such a patriot, conservative campaign would give us a chance to save the country.

In this way we can challenge the Washington establishment and unify all conservatives, libertarians, independents, and blue-collar Democrats into a vibrant grassroots force. We believe a nationally-known, free-market conservative, running as an Independent, would get 40-45 percent of the vote and win the 2016 election. In doing so, his campaign would act as the launch for a new political party - the NATIONAL INDEPENDENT PARTY - that would further the fight into the future. For more information on this cause, go to our website,

Nelson Hultberg is a freelance scholar/writer in Dallas, Texas and the Director of Americans for a Free Republic His articles have appeared over the past twenty years in such publications as The Dallas Morning News, American Conservative, Insight, Liberty, The Freeman, and The Social Critic, as well as on numerous Internet sites such as Capitol Hill Outsider, Conservative Action Alerts, Daily Paul, Canada Free Press, and The Daily Bell. He is the author of The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values.