>using a VPN combined with Tor would mitigate my ISP from knowing I use Tor?
Yeah as long as you're using a VPN outside the 14 eyes(Express, Nord, Surfshark, Cyberghost), and enable the Kill Switch in your VPN to protect your internet traffic incase of a cutoff. Free VPNs and USA/Chinese based ones would compromise you. You need to be sure your VPN is registered in a country outside surveillance nations.
>I do notice it's slow as balls and barely loads some sites, but I can put up with that if the security is guaranteed.
>Is it also true you should never use Tor to brows clear-net URLs?
That's what they say and its true that with hidden services(aka onion url sites)you have more privacy but personally haven't seen any data leaks with Tor. Your Tor traffic is likely going to be bouncing back and forth from one node to another so you're likely safe as long as you don't enter personal information or sensitive credentials.The said URLs are unlikely to leak outside of Tor.
>VPNs used for Piracy
True true, however they have a myriad of uses outside of that including protecting your data against hackers in wifi spots, circumventing Geo-blocked sites, etc. Corporations also typically use VPNs to protect their trademarks.
>Hell, a lot of VPNs aren't even private as noted by the recent case of NordVPN moving their servers to America, in which America forces VPNs, among others, to log data and give it to the government.
Yes but the way it goes in the VPN biz goes is that the FEDs only have jurisdiction over the VPN data if the said VPN company is registered within said country. Even if Nords servers are in United States, in Europe, their business is registered in Panama and therefore aren't required to legally maintain logs in the United States or Europe. If the US wants to get logs from perse from Express VPN or Nord customers, they had to go through the British Virgin Islands or Panama courts to gain access to said information on American subscribers.
It also helps that VPN news on logs being turned over to authorities or those being subpoenaed/searched are incredibly rare. PureVPN was one of the recent ones and that happened a few years ago so I think you'll get some millage out of VPNs or at least I'd rather trust my VPN than my ISP with my data.
>a solid 26% of Tor's traffic comes from the US, or 500k users
That's pretty impressive tbh considering there isn't much to do in the onion network but perhaps its just being used as a browser vpn at this rate for some people.
>Tor is known to governments as being used for privacy
And that's why they are desperate to crack down on it and stigmatize the tool. Its legal to use Tor but as it stands its rep isn't so great. Maybe if it gets more adopters down the road that might change.