Tag: human rights and liberties

In a Nutshell: Ted Cruz is a Liberal (What’s liberalism?)

Posted by – July 9, 2014

Part of a new series, “In a Nutshell,” in which I try to explain an idea in 500 words or less.

What is a liberal?

I think of liberalism as beginning with the belief that the citizen is sovereign and has certain inalienable rights, inalienable meaning they are indestructible and unconditional, not contingent on kings, feudal lords, etc., and not coming from the divine right of kings or your social rank or wealth but INBORN.  You have human rights that are immovable, including individual liberty, life, the right to pursue your happiness, and that we all have the same rights (radical equality of rights) is the core of liberalism.  A law that, for example, strictly bans religious hair-coverings is the opposite of liberal.  It’s illiberal, especially if it is singling out Muslim women/the hijab and ignoring similar Jewish and Christian Orthodox hair-covering so only Muslima have fewer rights.

My painted caricature of Thomas Jefferson, from my Cartooning the Presidents series

Quintessentially liberal laws include the Bill of Rights and Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.  In the late 1800s and throughout the 20th century, liberalism increasingly added positive liberty-ish things more about your freedom to pursue happiness and thrive to the list, like the freedom from fear included in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, broader interventions for equal opportunity like the Civil Rights Act and so forth.  It’s these interventions that separate 20th century American liberalism from classical liberalism.

No true liberals forget the primacy of negative liberties, what the state CAN’T DO to you, though (the Bill of Rights, your constitutional protections).  20th century Conservatism mostly opposed the interventions to affect outcomes while putting “law and order” ahead of your right to be left alone (Nixon, George Wallace, for example).

To the extent that the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have disregarded negative liberties and

Ted Cruz’s official 113th Congress portrait (public domain)

stomped freedom from violence, force, coercion, intrusions, etc., they’re ILLIBERAL!

Insofar as Ted Cruz fights unchecked drone surveillance, NSA web spying and warrantless wiretapping, Ted Cruz is a liberal, at least on civil liberties and “classical liberalism,” and the opposite of neo-cons like Dick Cheney!

Of course the Tea Party types are like a 21st century mutation of the Barry Goldwater libertarian-ish far-right, so we disagree on how expansive freedom from corporate feudalism and economic violence should be, and on fundamental principles like positive rights and the role of gov’t.  But, since “libertarians” are a weird mutation of classical liberalism, there’s more of the Right agreeing with (the few remnants of) the ACLU Left on civil liberties than during the ’80s, for example.

We’d do well to turn off the hate radio and open a dictionary, and untangle what’s liberal and what ain’t.

420ish words

Nick

 

Recommended resourcethis episode of PBS’ documentary mini-series Constitution USA about the Bill of Rights.  At the beginning of the episode Peter Sagal talks to the Arizona Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, a group of retired Marines, and they talk about the gov’t getting out of your hair.  While you may peg them as Tea Partiers, gun rights nutbars, etc., and you’re not necessarily wrong, what they’re saying about motorcycle helmets and your own business to risk it really epitomizes my idea of liberalism, as there’s no liberalism without civil liberties.

Law and Order: When Is It Wrong To Follow The Law?

Posted by – June 19, 2014

When law-breaking is moral and obedience is immoral

Philosophical contradictions (cognitive dissonance)

There have always been contradictions in the predominant (deeply right-wing) currents of political/moral thought in the state I call home, Alabama, that I have never made sense of.
For example, one moment a conservative is the most believingest true believer of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship to do anything, saying that all we need is government to remove itself and bootstraps individualism will solve every problem, then the same dude switches from rose-colored glasses to dystopian lenses, and suddenly Americans have no entrepreneurial spirit at all and only want to mooch off state aid. In this mode of thinking, conservatives presume Americans’ ambitions stop at being a hundredaire!

Similarly, the same conservatives that rail against the “nanny state” demand everyone on gov’t assistance be drug tested, the most intrusive, nanny statest program yet! Florida lost more money drug testing welfare recipients than anyone thought; source: No Savings Are Found From Welfare Drug Tests – New York Times. The program was pitched as massively culling the welfare rolls of druggies and saving untold millions, but very few people tested positive for narcotics, and the only thing that it did was waste money and punish and humiliate people. Hard black market drugs are far less affordable and available to the very poor than is assumed in the unreal fantasy world of the conservative echo chamber. Still, “fiscal conservatives” want this money-squandering testing, though the judicial branch increasingly blocks such testing as unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment, there being no probable cause for everyone, just because they’re on state aid, to be urine-searched and intruded upon.

And of course during the Republican primary debates in ’08 and ’12 you have the contradiction of “free markets! Boo-yah!” and the position on the Mexico-U.S. border: seal it, wall it, snipers and barbed-wire electro-shock fences, and the more like the Berlin Wall it sounded and the more violent the language, the more carnal howls of bloodthirsty approval rang out from the debate audience. And no one noticed that the brutal approach to the border, blocking commerce and movement, is the opposite of free markets. One day the far-right may get their laser-turret dystopia on the Mexican border, but there’s no “freedom” about it.

OBEY ALL laws?

But today the main contradiction I’m exploring is this: law and order… why does the conservative insistence on OBEYING cover some things but not others? There is leniency for the powerful; we shelter the corrupt bankster, but tell the wayfaring immigrant and his pregnant wife “sorry, there’s no room at the inn.”

Why isn’t Cliven Bundy following the law? I don’t think he should if the law means his own destruction. …the law saying that Mexicans have to starve and be unable to afford to compete with subsidized U.S. corn and basically die rather than work in U.S., that is an evil law.

I believe in inalienable rights, a sort of natural law, inalienable and unmovable principles that are constant whether you’re Mexican or not, and regardless of disability, gender, outward appearance, age, etc., and one of those rights is the “right to resist” and non-violently civil disobedience-style defy laws that obviously lead to self destruction.

I want to have a morally consistent view. Of course Bundy’s grazing herds and non-paying of taxes is less bad than some of the legal bribe activities politicians do on a regular basis, the president ordering grandmas blown up by Predator missiles in Pakistan, etc., so it’s obvious to me that, while the law matters and shouldn’t be ignored willy-nilly, what is legal and what is right don’t enjoy 1:1 correlation.

“The British put a tax on salt, and said that Indians could not make their own salt. Gandhi walked with his followers 200 miles to the sea to break the law by gathering salt. Soon the jails were overflowing with Indians—and the British did away with the Salt Act.” – comic book panel from Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, a December 1957 educational comic book about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and non-violent civil disobedience.

And immigrants are even less offensive to my view of right and wrong. I’m an immigrant, all of us are, except for indigenous tribes.  In the mindset of the Tea Party type person, Cliven Bundy’s defiance of federal law is good, whereas the immigrant with no choice but to “illegally” cross because legal immigration is impossible for Mexicans (given the antiquated “quotas” being full) is hated and wrong. I don’t understand this, especially when immigrant laborers put food in your markets, meaning a direct relationship of sorts, and Bundy doesn’t.

We have a problem because natural law (and common-sense) increasingly conflicts with the growing reams of rules. We probably break 20 federal, state, local rules and regulations before lunch…

Gandhi was right to break the law forbidding indigenous salt gathering, as laws that are enacted solely to protect an evil corporate monopoly are inherently unjust and illegitimate.  Similarly, the real Tea Party, the Boston Tea Party, was also about defying the laws set up to benefit the royalist colonial trade monopoly.  Both were backlashes to the merging of corporation and state.

To be a truly moral actor you have to be willing to disobey the authority figure if you’re being ordered to do bad things. These moral dilemmas come to the fore surprisingly often in hospitals, with nurses and other hands-on staff having to make pivotal choices, like whether they should follow the nonsensical bureaucratic rule and potentially harm the patient, or disobey and potentially get fired or harassed by authority figures.

I’ll end on the definitive answer, from Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail:

One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Letter from Birmingham Jail – April 16th, 1963

 

Nick

 

For more of my writing on disobeying the evil power structures of modern life, see my series When Life and Death Are “A Matter of Policy” 

Do The Orwellian Police State Cha-Cha!!

Posted by – September 30, 2010

Last week, like the careful student of political science I am, I was reading the full text of the Pledge to America, the new policy platform for the GOP’s Fall Election campaign…
The thing that disturbed me the most is that the text so emphasizes the Constitution and a return to the Constitution, all this restoration language,

House Republican Leader John Boehner and posse, behind a podium with a shiny "Pledge to America" sign, introduce their new Pledge to America (photo credit: Drew Angerer/The New York Times)

but despite unprecedented law enforcement overreach in recent years, COMPLETELY IGNORES civil liberties (Bill of Rights, Amendments 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc)!! The text explicitly mentions the Tenth Amendment, and of course they’re all about THE RIGHT TO OWN A GUN (even automatics, heavy weapons, bazookas, RPGs, etc) but evidently the rest of the Bill of Rights simply doesn’t exist!

Does no Republican behind this pledge think of civil liberties as part of the Constitution?

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (in California) just ruled that police placing tracking devices on cars in private driveways is totally legal because “there’s no expectation of privacy in driveways.” Unless you’re rich and can lock your vehicle in a garage or behind a fence with private security guards, that is.

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn’t violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking your movements.

That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant.

It is a dangerous decision — one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich.

This case began in 2007, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents decided to monitor Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who they suspected was growing marijuana. They snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and found his Jeep in his driveway, a few feet from his trailer home. Then they attached a GPS tracking device to the vehicle’s underside.

After Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA’s actions, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in January that it was all perfectly legal. More disturbingly, a larger group of judges on the circuit, who were subsequently asked to reconsider the ruling, decided this month to let it stand. (Pineda-Moreno has pleaded guilty conditionally to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana while appealing the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained with the help of GPS.)

Excerpted from: The Government’s New Right To Track Your Every Move With GPS – TIME

Neither Team Donkey nor Team Elephant have expressed the slightest concern. Not a word.

This editorial cartoon by Adam Zyglis depicts President Obama as Uncle Sam in one of those WWII-era Army recruitment posters, but with the banner "I HEAR YOU," and the words "Expanded Surveillance" printed on his big ears.

Not a word either concerning the new FBI/Obama Administration proposal to make every data method tappable and un-encryptable!!!

To counter such problems, officials are coalescing around several of the proposal’s likely requirements:

  • Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
  • Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
  • Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.

“It would be an enormous change for newly covered companies,” he said. “Implementation would be a huge technology and security headache, and the investigative burden and costs will shift to providers.”

Several privacy and technology advocates argued that requiring interception capabilities would create holes that would inevitably be exploited by hackers.

Steven M. Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor, pointed to an episode in Greece: In 2005, it was discovered that hackers had taken advantage of a legally mandated wiretap function to spy on top officials’ phones, including the prime minister’s.

“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “If they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited.”

Susan Landau, a Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study fellow and former Sun Microsystems engineer, argued that the proposal would raise costly impediments to innovation by small startups.

“Every engineer who is developing the wiretap system is an engineer who is not building in greater security, more features, or getting the product out faster,” she said.

Moreover, providers of services featuring user-to-user encryption are likely to object to watering it down. Similarly, in the late 1990s, encryption makers fought off a proposal to require them to include a back door enabling wiretapping, arguing it would cripple their products in the global market.

But law enforcement officials rejected such arguments. They said including an interception capability from the start was less likely to inadvertently create security holes than retrofitting it after receiving a wiretap order.

They also noted that critics predicted that the 1994 law would impede cellphone innovation, but that technology continued to improve. And their envisioned decryption mandate is modest, they contended, because service providers — not the government — would hold the key.

“No one should be promising their customers that they will thumb their nose at a U.S. court order,” Ms. Caproni said. “They can promise strong encryption. They just need to figure out how they can provide us plain text.”

Excerpted from: U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet – NYTimes.com

In a normative political system, we would have an opposition party to oppose these kinds of outrageous excesses; part of any political system is supposed to be the people raising cain when there are rights violations, but neither party gives us an outlet for that. Right now, the Republican party is supposed to be the opposition party; that’s why I brought up the “Pledge to America.” But they don’t oppose unlimited surveillance and limited civil liberties, in fact, they’re like “bahbah-bahbahBAAHH, I’m lovin’ it!!” Even though they’re calling for a return to the Constitution, they’re acting like the Bill of Rights doesn’t include civil liberties of any sort (other than gun rights).

In the Republican party’s defense, we expect Republicans to be the authoritarian police state party, they are supposed to have that Big Brother ideology. And, in opposition, the Democratic party is supposed to be chock-full of “card-carrying members of the ACLU” who stand up for civil liberties and defend all forms of art (even pornography) and freedom of speech and privacy in the Bill of Rights, etc. The problem is how the Democrats have completely caved and sold out on their traditional positions. Why? Just so they’re not labeled “unserious” and barred from the good parties in a post-9/11 neoliberal authoritarian climate? How did we, the American people, divinely-appointed guardians of human freedom around the world, allow it to go so far?

Right now, there is NO opposition party against America sliding into an Orwellian police state. If we’re to keep the U.S. a Republic in any sense, that has to change!

An image with Benjamin Franklin and his famous quote "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

Nick

A Worthy Cause: Helping LGBT Iraqis Who Are Being Chased Down And Executed

Posted by – May 15, 2009

As I posted before, Iraq is now killing homosexuals at a startling rate, and since many can’t blend in, are forced into hiding.  And three safe houses have now closed for want of funding.

PaulCanning forwards an urgent request from IRAQI LGBT:

IRAQI LGBT started to establish a network of safe houses inside Iraq in March 2006.

As of today, we have only one safe house, we had to consider closing down three of them in the last couple of months, because we are unable to keep paying the rent and other expenses.

The members of our group inside Iraq urgently need funds to open at least five safe houses. These funds will allow us to keep the five safe houses running, and provide safety, shelter, food and many other needs for our LGBT friends inside Iraq. Any funds we receive that go beyond what we need for these five safe houses could be used to open more safe houses in the near future. We desperately need to add more because we have so many urgent cases in other cities. We receive requests for shelter every day, but we are not able to help yet.

Source: http://paulcanning.blogspot.com/2009/05/support-safe-houses-project-for-lgbt.html

In recent months, Iraq’s mullahs have directed a vicious purge of gay Iraqis. Evidently, the Sadrist movement (who have plenty of supporters within the current regime) and the Iraqi government reached an agreement, and if gays aren’t simply shot by militiamen, they are jailed, executed, or tortured to death by the authorities. Many have died via extrajudicial execution, while others were officially imprisoned and executed by hanging. Still others (about 200 in Baghdad) are on death row awaiting hanging.

Activists will protest for the human rights of LGBT Iraqis Sunday outside President Obama’s home in Chicago, and implore him to act.

This year in Chicago, the Gay Liberation Network (GLN) is organizing the city’s IDAHO event as a protest against the Obama administration’s continuing silence about rampant anti-gay violence in U.S.-occupied Iraq. The protest will take place at 2 PM, Sunday, May 17th outside of the Obamas’ Chicago residence at the corner of Hyde Park Boulevard (5100 S.) and Greenwood (1100 E.).

Over the past month, several news outlets have reported an escalating, officially sanctioned campaign to torture and execute gays in Iraq, promoted both by Shi’ite clerics and by the Shi’ite-dominated government which is closely allied with the United States.

As the New York Times reported April 7, “In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge [Baghdad] Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word ‘pervert’ in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies, the police said.” And as the Huffington Post reported May 3rd, “According to Iraqis and human rights workers interviewed for this post, some sort of understanding was reached between the Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army to ‘cleanse’ Iraq of homosexuals.”

Tortures committed reportedly include gluing the anuses of gay men shut, and then force-feeding them diarrhea-inducing medications which cause agonizing pain followed by death.

Back in 2005, the country’s leading Shi’ite cleric said that gays and lesbians should be “punished, in fact, killed” and that “the people should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.” After some protests this language was removed from the cleric’s website, and the anti-gay campaign appeared to subside.

However, over the past month, the campaign in Iraq to murder gays has ramped up again as “Sadr City’s Muslim clerics have reportedly urged the faithful to destroy homosexuality in Iraqi society and police have undertaken an effort to arrest and jail gay men,” said United Press International.

Source: LGBT asylum news: Chicago protest about anti-gay pogram in Iraq

Nick’s Crusade, strongly believing that disability rights activists shouldn’t be stuck in their traditional “silos,” but should be supporting the inalienable human rights of all people, endorses this protest Sunday. Obama should take heed, and, if he can’t pull strings in Baghdad, at the very least he could grant asylum in the U.S. to those who are now hiding in fear.

I don’t have any money (I know; I’m a charitable case myself) but if I did, helping LGBT Iraqis who’re running for their lives is a very worthy cause.    For more information, see the IRAQI LGBT blog.

Regardless of your opinions on the gay issue, if you have friends and family that are gay (I do) and wouldn’t want them killed, you should pay attention to the persecution of gays around the world, and raise awareness.

Nick

Nick’s Crusade Statement of Inalienable Rights

Posted by – May 15, 2009

I’ve permanently added the “Nick’s Crusade Statement of Inalienable Rights” to the site, because human rights are the backbone, the underlying premise of everything I post here.

It’s a work in progress, so please comment and suggest changes or additions.

Nick’s Crusade Statement of Inalienable Rights

The Serfs Are Getting Restive

Posted by – June 22, 2007


Here’s a fun history tidbit I gleaned from the latest Hardcore History podcast:

The Black Plague and the drastic changes it wrought on society, on supply and demand, on everything, had an incalculably deep impact on history. One thing it spurred was the English Peasants’ Revolt, aka the Great Rising of 1381, the 626th anniversary of which, coincidentally, is this month. I did some research on this important event.

On June 14, the serfs rose up and destroyed Savoy Palace and stormed the Tower of London, killing the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chancellor.

After the Black Plague hit and wiped out a significant portion of the labor pool, the remaining workers were suddenly more valuable, and started demanding their share. The nobility responded by repressing the serfs even more. The monarchy re-enforcing the per-man tax that the peasants thought they already paid, and the utter resentment of the entrenched aristocracy is what sparked the revolt. Renegade priest John Ball rallied the serfs with sermons about there being no feudal masters or bondage in Eden, all men created equal, etc.

The rising was so powerful that the King initially agreed to stunning concessions like the effective end of unpaid serf labor, but then all the rebel leaders were killed (John Ball was hanged, drawn and quartered in front of the King, a death so gruesome you have to read it to believe it) and all the tentative agreements were rescinded. “Just kidding! there will still be brutal feudalism!”


In this 14th century art, London’s mayor kills rebel leader Wat Tyler in front of the King.


Unpaid serf labor continued well into the 15th century and after in England, though serfdom was permanently undermined by the plague-related depopulation.

Too bad the revolt failed.

The monarchy continued to impose arbitrary, heavy taxes on the plebes to fund their bulls#!t foreign wars. Sound familiar? I’m not opposed to taxes, but if we weren’t positioning troops on every freaking continent to fulfill some insane vision of American Empire, imagine how much more we could afford!

European monarchs repressed their people with wars for millenia, often on pretenses as absurd as the Iraq war.

America’s founders knew what’s up. This is why they put the power to declare war in the hands of the Congress alone (a cornerstone of the Constitution that both parties have consistently ignored since the Korean war). Thomas Jefferson even wanted a standing army banned. It’s easy to see why

I’m obsessed with the founding fathers lately. They foresaw all that’s happening now, the creeping monarchism, the stripping of our liberties in the name of security, they predicted it all.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Ben Franklin

“Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path of destruction.” — Thomas Jefferson


I fear we ARE losing the Republic. Are we all that different from a monarchy with serfs right now? According to this commentary by Anwar Hussain: “…it is now plain for all to see that misrepresentative government and corporatism has oppressed American citizenry to the extent that their democracy has become nothing more than a corporate theocracy, a fascist feudal state in which ‘the serfs’ serve the corporate state as voiceless workers, voracious consumers, submissive citizens and pliant subjects.”

Author Cullen Murphy says We Are Rome. Check out Murphy being interviewed by Stephen Colbert; it is fascinating.

It’s past time we rediscover the core American values of our founders, which are so strongly libertarian they make most ’08 presidential candidates look like monarchists.

Don’t be servile to any politician! Remember the 1776 rebel spirit!

Nick

Is the "war on terra" the only issue that matters?

Posted by – March 4, 2007


Is the
war on terra the only issue that matters in politics now?

That’s the argument Ron Silver famously made at the ’04 Republican National Convention (old video).

It’s the argument I hear over and over from Bush apologists.

Prediction: it’s the argument that rightist politicians will be pitching throughout the ’08 election cycle, which (lamentably) is rolling ahead full-bore already in spring ’07.

And it isn’t true.

Here’s how a friend framed it. He actually makes a respectable case here, and I give him props for the cogent argument.

But Nick, my whole point is…what does it matter what our Health Care system is if we’re facing the same type of suicide bombing campaign IN AMERICA that they’ve had in Israel, or God forbid in Iraq?

You don’t understand me…I’m a liberal. I’m not a right-wing asshole. But what good is liberalism if we don’t have a world to practice it in??

I’m also very pro-the world existing, always have been.

I don’t want us to throw up our hands and let terrorist cells metastasize all over the world, no president would allow that. Don’t believe the straw men that right-wingers keep building to scare you; it’s false.

I took a class in American foreign policy in college (which by no means makes me an expert, but does mean I know slightly more than the other bloggers) and in reading the books what struck me most was that American foreign policy has changed remarkably little in the last 100 years (I’m fascinated by this stuff). Don’t believe the hype; whoever has accepted the weighty mantle of commander-in-chief has acted very consistently to intervene overseas for U.S. interests (in the study of foreign policy, this school of thought, that the role determines things more than its occupant, is called Role Theory) . President McKinley annexed Guam, the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Theodore Roosevelt built the Panama Canal, decided the U.S. could unilaterally intervene in Latin America, and sent The Great White Fleet circumnavigating the globe to show off American military might. William Howard Taft toppled a regime he didn’t like in Nicaragua and installed a puppet. Woodrow Wilson threw U.S. troops into World War I. Franklin D. Roosevelt brought us into WW2. Truman nuked Japan and invaded Korea. Eisenhower intervened in Vietnam and LBJ surged over 550,000 troops into the war. Reagan intervened in Lebanon, Grenada and Central America. Bush Sr. invaded Kuwait, Clinton continued bombing Saddam and launched Operation Desert Fox, as well as toppling Serbia.

My point (aside from thinking we really need to reevaluate whether we want to continue the 100 years of near-perpetual warfare) is that U.S. presidents have been consistently interventionist for a century (mostly for good motives) and you should not expect that to stop on a dime in another Democratic administration.

Why have American presidents, no matter what the person is like, or what he has promised, implemented consistently similar foreign policy? Because they have the same foreign policy equipment (the same Joint Chiefs of Staff, the same Armed Forces, the same CIA, the same intelligence data) that doesn’t change from the previous administration. So …

1) Whoever is president will respond similarly and do whatever it takes to protect us. No president wants to be remembered as allowing catastrophic consequences, and (from what history has shown) will likely err on the side of over-intervening, not isolationism.

2) What is the greatest threat to the lives of our citizenry, really? We lost over 3,000 Americans to terrorism on 9/11, which is horrible, but we lose 600,000 Americans every year to cancer alone (source). Lance Armstrong is involved in the National Commission on Cancer Survivorship, and they have found that at least 200,000 of those deaths are totally preventable with existing treatments, but are not treated (given basic chemotherapy) because our health care system is so lame (Armstrong discusses this near the end of this interview). Our wasteful, greedy culture is devastating our population in this area. It’s not hard to see health care is a huge threat, arguably the most important.

Also, I follow Jewish theology in saying that doing mitzvos, doing good, the spiritual quest for righteousness is the most important overriding goal of life, and if we do good, we can never truly be destroyed, where conversely, doing bad, bad motives, bad faith, will ultimately cancel out perceived gains. We can bomb every Iraqi village (or, as one poster suggested to me, nuke the Sunni triangle and nuke Iran) and satisfy our fear momentarily, but if we’ve sold our soul by tossing our moral code to commit such acts, what good will it do long-term? It would come back on us. We are only a great country because we are good. If we are not scrupulously good, we will never be great; karma won’t allow it.

3) What kind of society are we protecting from terrorism? This gets right back to the heart of my earlier post about the social contract. What if we wake up and realize the society we’re defending is a society that says “screw you if you’re sick! if you can’t pay, you die!”? The Army Times is reporting that soldiers coming home wounded are being deliberately shortchanged on their disability classifications to save money. The big picture is that right now our government, our society is fundamentally unrighteous, spiritually sick, and needs to be transformed. We agree to form a government and allow it to rule so we can ensure life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and when a people fail at this and injustice is rampant, change is the top priority.

The Hebrew prophets always stressed this point, and were far harsher than I am in putting a return to righteousness ahead of national defense (in fact I can’t find a single prophet who didn’t do this). The Nevi’im (prophets) make people really uncomfortable (sometimes even me). They are in your face and get in your business. I want to be more moderate than Jeremiah here, who insisted that forsaking idolatry was the only overriding concern and wrote that we had to check ourselves, even if it took invasion by Babylonians (which he believed we deserved) to make us see we’re not keeping our end of the covenant and need to check ourselves. Of course Jeremiah was tortured and imprisoned several times by the ruling elite for saying this (the true prophets, from Abraham to Moses to Jeremiah are always against the ruling elite, and you should be too).

Rembrandt. The Prophet Jeremiah Mourning over the Destruction of Jerusalem. 1630. Oil on panel. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam


As
predicted, Jeremiah saw Babylon conquer Israel in his lifetime. I don’t think we deserved 9/11, and Babylon isn’t going to militarily defeat us, but repentance is always a good idea, and it can’t be insignificant that now America has invaded Babylon, a spiritual Babylon (idolatry, moral anarchy, survival of the fittest) has invaded America at the same time. This is the premise of another great social justice blog by my friend Y-Love, ThisIsBabylon.net.

Anyway, I don’t think it’s at all radical or off-base to suggest that the means of defense is less crucial than what it is we’re defending. It’s just common sense. The type of society we are, correcting injustice, eschewing idolatry, these are the chief goals in my worldview. And given the growing inequity in health care harming more and more Americans, and killing more than terrorism, it’s no surprise that voters now list universal health care as their top domestic priority (Health Care Top Domestic Concern: Poll).

Expect to hear a lot on TV that war is all that matters, a lot of scare tactics. But it’s not true.

To recap:

1) Whoever is president will respond similarly and do whatever it takes to protect us.
2) Inequity in health care is killing more Americans than terrorism.
3) The overall social contract is the most important, and it is broken.

Isn’t building the riches in our vault just as important (if not moreso) than the Army guarding it?

Rebuild. Renew. Fulfill.

Nick

For 2006 Republican Leadership, Support For Slave Labor Runs Deep

Posted by – October 17, 2006

For 2006 Republican Leadership, Support For Slavery Runs Deep

More Revelations In Marianas Scandal Show GOP Chairman Involved

Yesterday, I shed light on the disgusting Republican effort to protect deplorable labor conditions on the American-controlled Northern Marianas Islands, where Chinese immigrants are kept in sweatshops with little to no pay and not allowed to leave. Basically, the definition of slavery.

The party that abolished slavery under Lincoln has now resorted to extraordinary measures to keep slavery and forced abortions in place in the Northern Marianas Islands.

It has now been revealed that Chairman of the Republican Party, Ken Mehlman conspired with Jack Abramoff to protect the slavery racket there. He intervened and got a State Department official fired for trying to enforce labor laws on the islands.

“…according to documents obtained by Vanity Fair, Mehlman exchanged email with Abramoff, did him political favors (such as blocking Clinton-administration alumnus Allen Stayman from keeping a State Department job)…”

Stayman had been on Abramoff’s hit list for a long, long time, because, as a higher-up at the Interior Department, he had been an ardent advocate for bringing the sorts of labor and immigration reforms to the Northern Mariana Islands that Abramoff had been hired to squelch.


Ken Mehlman Killed State Department Nomination on Abramoff’s Behalf

In related news, China, tired of similar sweatshop operations, has drafted a new law to crack down and empower labor unions. The American response? Instead of applauding the Chinese effort to change their horrendous human rights record, U.S. corporations reacted angrily that their exploitation may be curbed, and are lobbying against this and threatening to stop opening factories there. Check out
China drafting law to protect workers, regulate sweatshops
Foreign firms hint they’ll build fewer factories if it passes (link).

It should be clear to everyone now that these sweatshop corporatists only care about profit, and the dignity of the human person is but another liability to be reduced and mitigated.

It should be clear to everyone now that a vote for Ken Mehlman’s party is a vote supporting his unabashed efforts to keep Marianas slavery and sweatshop exploitation shielded from U.S. regulation.

Three weeks until the Congressional elections. Stay alert, and VOTE!!!

Nick


Filed Under: Politics and Government

Bush Gov’t & House Cronies Supporting Slavery, Forced Abortions

Posted by – October 16, 2006

Bush Government Supporting Slavery And Forced Abortions

Top Rove Aide Involved In Abramoff Scandal Resigns

The Abramoff corruption and its reach deep into the government has been horribly unreported by the mainstream media; almost no one knows about it (liberal media? please.) and the most outrageous aspect of this scandal is how Abramoff and Tom DeLay conspired to continue slavery and forced abortions in the American Northern Marianas Islands (details).

Basically, human traffickers bring Chinese women to the islands, and keep them there in slavery in sweatshops behind barbed wire making clothes for U.S. retailers, force them into prostitution, and if they get pregnant, force them to get abortions. They are not allowed to leave the island, and they either get paid less than half the minimum wage, or not paid at all. Yet the clothing is allowed to be labeled “Made In The USA,” as the Northern Marianas Islands are a commonwealth of the United States.

Catholic social justice groups howled about the slavery and forced abortions under American auspices. A bill was introduced in Congress to enforce U.S. minimum wage and labor laws on the islands. The sinister Northern Marianas authorities then contracted super lobbyist Jack Abramoff to the tune of $6.7 million to kill the bill and protect their slavery racket. Abramoff, who has now pled guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, brought then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay to the Northern Marianas Islands. DeLay appeared at a benefit dinner for the chief slaveowner, Willie Tan, and lauded his operation. “When one of my closest and dearest friends, Jack Abramoff, your most able representative in Washington, D.C., invited me to the islands, I wanted to see firsthand the free-market success and the progress and reform you have made.” Tan, who has paid the largest U.S. labor fines in history, told ABC News that DeLay assured him the bill enforcing labor laws would not pass Congress, because “I make the schedule.” Listen to NPR’s report on the Marianas scandal.

Abramoff hired long-time associate and former-executive director of the Christian Coalition Ralph Reed to send out mass mailings to Alabama Christians telling them to call their Congressmen to tell them to vote against the Northern Marianas bill. “The radical left, the Big Labor Union Bosses, and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas Islands,” the mailer from Reed’s firm said, where, it added, the Chinese workers, “are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

So Christians were enlisted to protect slavery and forced abortions.

And DeLay did all he could to promote the Marianas as a free market utopia and scuttle the bill to bring regulation to the islands. And succeeded. These brutal sweatshops are still very much in place in the Northern Marianas islands.

The latest development in this outrage is the resignation of top aide to Karl Rove, Susan Ralston, on Friday after the press corps went home. See Rove Aide Linked To Abramoff Resigns in the Washington Post. Ralston, it was revealed in the Abramoff investigation, was essential in the extraordinary effort to protect
slavery and forced abortions in the Marianas Islands. When Abramoff wanted a Republican candidate for the governorship of the Marianas who had promised reform to lose so they could continue the slavery, he e-mailed Ralston to ask if Rove could get Bush to withhold endorsement of the candidate. She e-mailed Abramoff back: “You win. 🙂 KR says no endorsement.” KR is, of course, Karl Rove. Ralston was Abramoff’s executive assistant but in February 2001 went to work in the same job for Rove.

This scandal should be huge, and devastating for the Republican party. It should be all over the front page, all over the 24/7 news channels. It isn’t, even though the scandal has now felled a top West Wing aide.

None of the pro-life groups are up-in-arms or even mentioning this, much less picketing the White House with “STOP PROTECTING FORCED ABORTIONS” signs; they are either duped into actively blocking reforming the island, or at least still supporting this administration. If they really cared about opposing abortions, why does this not get a rise out of them?
Is it that Chinese life doesn’t matter?
Is it just about power?
Where’s the outrage?

This is 2006, dammit. I want my government to stop supporting slavery and forced abortions.

Who’s with me?

Nick

PS
Don’t take my word for it. You can independently verify what I’m saying with a simple Google search.

Filed Under: Politics and Government

Religious People Against Torture

Posted by – September 27, 2006


Some People Of Faith Uniting To Stop American Torture

I apologize if I came down too harshly on Christians supporting torture in my previous post. Many sincere Christians oppose torture. Check out this article from Christianity Today magazine: 5 Reasons Torture Is Always Wrong. It gives an accurate assessment and lays out some great Biblical arguments against torture.

For my Jewish readers, check out the excellent Jewish Campaign to Stop Torture by Rabbis for Human Rights. It is an excellent site in design and content, and lays out action you can take, such as signing their petition.

Shalom,

Nick

Filed Under: Politics and Government

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