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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Utahn #8: A Peace Worth Dying For

Debating on the internet is a pretty stupid thing to do, especially on message boards. But, I do it anyway. I've met many political comrades on these boards and have been inspired to write many a posts from the conversations, debates and outright flame wars on said boards. There are so many different kinds of people out there and the ones that have intrigued me the most are the ones who are willing to die so peace can prevail. I'm not talking about idealist soldiers fighting to preserve the peace of democracies or stabilize a region. I'm talking about those so deeply moralistic that they'd allow themselves, and in the case of a terrorist attack everyone else around them, die if it meant keeping to their subjective moral code.

I've come across this absolutist suicide pact several times in the debate over waterboarding. Many of my friends, along with myself, support the use of harsh interrogation against captured terrorists. While the morality of waterboarding is in question, the other exposed methods used by our intelligence services are not really in question. We believe, for the most part, that it would be morally reprehensible to not do as much as one legally can to stop these enemies, even if it means going near the edge of civilized conduct. From the evidence we've seen, America has yet to endorse stepping over the line.

The absolutists, though, deem it reprehensible that we have committed any kind of harsh interrogation. Temperature fluctuations and forced nudity is considered as evil as pulling nails and lucid amputation, two things our enemies do to soldiers and civilians alike. The moralists cite treaties that very few nations abide by. Those who are well-read in legality pronounce that crimes have been committed, that those who wrote that harsh interrogation, no matter what the method was, did it because they are power hungry or corrupt. They say they called them legal to please their masters, not because these war-time lawyers may have actually believed harsh interrogation was not torture and it was allowed because the terrorists are not legally soldiers nor partisans. The former and latter are protected under the rules of war. Flying planes into buildings and blowing up bombs near children aren't.

These people seem to want to be able to live morally satisfied in a reality where morality is subjective. They believe they can prove with anecdote and ideal that we can stop monsters without becoming monstrous in their eyes. In the paraphrased words of a rival debater, “I'll be willing to let myself and my children die in a terrorist attack if it meant America did not have to torture.”

As stated, I am defiantly not of this philosophy. I am married. I love my wife dearly. I love my family, both of blood and by marriage, dearly. I also love my country of birth and the country that raised me for fifteen years. The one thing I do not love as much as all that is my personal principles. My subjective views are not above my wife, my family, my neighbors or my nation. While I get to vote, I do not have a right to my way. While I can speak, I do not have a right to be heard. While I get to think and believe, I do not have a right to condemn anyone to death because I don't think my version of torture should be done to people I think are protected under my interpretation of the Constitution.

There's a reason I believe in original intent. There's a reason I don't think “an evolving standard of decency” is a good legal standing. There's a reason I believe, for the most part, in traditional moral codes (minus the religion). Its because if morality is no longer something that is stable and standardized, if morality is up to the individual and the individual can deem whatever he or she wishes as moral, and that person ends up gaining the presidency or any other chair of leadership, it could turn what used to be simple answers to simple questions into a quagmire of contradicting absolutes in which the good are bad, the bad are neutral, the obvious is obscured, the smart are dumb and, most disturbingly, the natural unnatural. In this case, the natural instinct to survive.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Out of Context: Leftist Dystopias and Their Application to Conservatism

Have you ever talked to a political person and have them cite Nineteen Eight-Four in an argument against the PATRIOT Act or about the terrorist surveillance program? What about someone quoting Brave New World while railing against the dangers of capitalism? Oh, how about having Fahrenheit 451 put together with hardcore Christians views on certain books? It happened. I used to do it in my younger days. Its quite simple, its very effective and its wholly dishonest in that it removes the context of the action from the universe the book is set in.

The Anti-Communist Socialist

Written by Eric Aurthur Blair (aka George Orwell) during the Second World War, Nineteen Eight-Four has become the icon of all political dystopia novels before and after it. Blair, a socialist, was a soldier in the Spanish Civil War, fighting for the leftist Republican faction against the monarchist-fascist Nationalist faction. It was there in the trenches with his comrades that he came face to face with the reality of what revolutionary communism and socialism has become. The Soviets had sent agents and arms to aid the leftists in the war. With the aid came Stalinist paranoia and purges. Blair's friends were gunned down by their own side because Stalin had deemed them too moderate or a threat to his rule of all communists worldwide. The author barely got out of Spain alive.

The book is about life in a futuristic Stalinist regime called Oceania that has taken over the Western Hemisphere and the English Isles. In this world, your only way to advance is to join the Party, otherwise you are relegated to the inhuman slums where the “proles” live. If you're in the Party, your life is regulated twenty-four hours by Big Brother, the ever watchful and ruthless face of the security apparatus. You are to believe whatever the state says, even if you know it to be wrong. If they say two plus two equals five, its five. Thought police kick down doors if you mutter anything against the Party or Big Brother. Children are recruited into the domestic intelligence agencies to spy on their parents. Even the much hated resistance leader and his band of ruffians are nothing more than a fiction created by the state to catch free thinkers so they can be tortured back into submission. The entire book is one big nightmare for any lover of liberty.

The left, most actively the student left, loves to point out how our interrogations are akin to the torture perpetrated in the book, but this is wrong on so many levels. First off, in the big picture, the United States is not a super-state Stalinist tyranny that enslaves the lower classes through ignorance, submits the middle class through brainwashing and has an upper class of Party members that are outside the law. The United States is a democratic republic with 50 unique states in a union held together by a federal government who leaders are elected every two, four and six years, depending on their position. Secondly, the interrogations of captured Islamist terrorists are not to break their ideological or religious beliefs, but to extract intelligence about their network, their associates and their plots to kill Americans. Our interrogations do not try to convince the terrorists two plus two is five or that Big Brother is their friend. All they need to do is give us actionable intelligence, and they have. Thousands of intelligence reports have been written based upon the vetted information given to us by these terrorists. Thirdly, the harsh interrogation were only used upon the high level terrorists in our custody. The harshest of methods, such as waterboarding, are not used on the foot soldiers. The Party, on the other hand, goes so far as to capture and torture loyal members who happen to mutter disloyal things in their sleep!

Blair was a democratic socialist. While he was disciple of Marxist economics, he wasn't for the tyrannical states that usually followed a socialist or communist coup. Blair would probably be quite content with the current status of most European nations, though the “neo-liberal” (corporatist) economics may have worried him. But, in no way, was Nineteen Eight-Four an allegory for all totalitarianism as some of the more ignorant like to profess. It was a fictionalized warning against Stalinist communism and its perversion of the ideals he held dear. There's a good reason Big Brother's face resembles Joseph's and not FDR's.

The Industrial Humanity

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is a classic of dystopian literature. A reaction to the spreading mass industrial culture of the late 1920s and early 1930s, it sends us far into the future where mass industrialization, mass commercialization and societal collectivism have created the World State. Reproduction is no longer a individual choice, but the responsibility of the government. Most children, except for the Alphas and Betas the upper tiers of the State's caste system, are mass produced using the “Bokanovsky process” which allows an egg to create up to 96 different embryos. Through chemical manipulation, the lower castes are literally grown and then brainwashed into their jobs. There is no free will at all for those deemed to be Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. Individuality is considered an egregious violation of the fabric of society. All citizens must interact with other citizens or be constantly looked down upon and ridiculed. Since reproduction is a state responsibility, sex has become a social and religious experience, with drug taking and orgies taking the place of prayer and Bible study. Parenthood, family, love; all the things that we hold dear today are considered evil tomorrow.

While the boons of capitalism have led to some very unhealthy things such as celebrity cults, mass advertising at children, and other things that have come to define our free market culture, Brave New World is not attacking capitalism and consumerism alone. Huxley's intention was to parody both the consumerism of America with the cold industrial fetish of the socialists and communists. Along with that, much of the future society of the World State is anti-traditional, anti-religion and anti-individualism; things hardly associated with conservatism and conservative values. The mass production of human beings is exactly what the conservative argument about cloning and embryonic stem-cell research is about. Despite the liberal myth, President Bush invested federal funds in stem-cell research, but refused to allow human embryos to be grown simply to be destroyed. The brainwashing of children isn't exactly what conservative presidents and Congresses do, especially not straight out of the womb (or the tube). But, it is a staple of communist and fascist governments to reform society from the infant up, creating fanatics by the time they've mastered riding a bike.

Huxley was an early hippie. Not the ones you see today who are one with nature, but also one with Marxist theory. Huxley was a believer in the mind and he took countless amounts of psychotropic drugs to prove it. He hated any kind to totalitarianism, either real like the USSR's anti-democratic governance or spiritual like American consumerism and American reliance on neurological medication. To use the book as a example of runaway capitalism, or of any other conservative cause, as many student revolutionaries do, just proves our education system needs revamping in the literary departments.

Books Are Hard

When some devout Christians questioned the Harry Potter books and some went so far as to burn it, constant allusions to the Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451 were made by social liberals, the media and other critics of these passionate religious folk. While I think its silly to believe that the Harry Potter series may incite children to take up the more dangerous and violent parts of witchcraft, I also think these people have every right to do what they want with the books. As for the citation of the classic novel about anti-intellectualism, those who use it use it wrong.

The world of Fahrenheit 451 is not one of theocracy or religious fervor, or of hyper-nationalism like the Nazis, but a pleasure-loving society who has deemed that learning is too hard, that any kind of lawful governance or cultural discipline is just not right. Teens drive into people and no one cares. People kill animals just to enjoy the gory death. The main character is a fireman: someone who burns the books found by the government. After a chance interaction with a free-thinking neighbor, he's set on a path of resistance to this destructive society. He's told years before his time, the people of this dytopian America decided rather than deal with minor backlashes from offended minorities, political correctness would flourish through the destruction of all books. Better for everyone to be equally unoffended by no literature than some people be offended by some literature.

Now where exactly in the book does it state that a cabal of Christian conservatives have deemed books to be blasphemous so they burn them all? Where exactly is the analogy (or allegory) to the zealotry of the faithful? Of course, it isn't there. Like the two previous examples, these famous novels of a world gone wrong are taken out of context so often its become common knowledge. Those who deem themselves political, liberal and well read, they would be aghast to know that the three books are, in fact, against what they believe. Usually, is hedonism associated with liberal or conservative ideology? How about the nanny state? How about genetic manipulation of embryos?

The classical dystopias of our literary cannon are not against a nation of free thinkers and humble faithful, nor are they against a separation of powers, a reasonable national defense, free markets or natural diversity. These horrors of our political imaginations are warnings against the very things we conservatives detest and the very thing many liberals, unwittingly, are for.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The West Coast Plot and Those Who Don't Care...

Marc Thiessen with more details on the West Coast Plot and takes on those who would deny that years of intelligence gathering saved any lives.

An excerpt:
In his post, Noah calls the West Coast plot “Thiessen’s claim” and Anderw Sullivan calls it “Thiessen’s LA Tower Canard.” What these two fail to appreciate is that the story of how enhanced interrogation broke up the West Coast plot is not my story — it is the official position of the intelligence community.

In my Washington Post piece, I was citing the very documents which President Obama released, which quote the CIA saying that interrogation with enhanced techniques “led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ to ‘use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.” The memo released by Obama goes on the explain that “information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave.’ ”

Again, those are not my words. That is the position of our intelligence community.

When The Ringleader Gets Tired of the Circus...

Little Green Footballs author Charles Johnson has becoming quite the celebrity (again) now that he's taking on the European and American anti-legal immigration on their bigoted views on Islam. He's also going after people like Ron Paul and going to lengths to dispute various internet rumors about President Obama's actions or non-actions. While I think its commendable that Charles is taking on the more intellectually loose of the right, I don't think he should be suddenly the new reasoned, anti-populist right-winger some have made him. After 9/11, LGF was a hotbed of bigoted anti-Islam comments, in no small part encouraged by Charles' more rhetoric laden posts on terrorism. While I have no knowledge if he actually entered the sewer of bigotry, he sure as hell didn't try to stem it.

There's also the fact that it seems his blog has changed gears and is more towards tearing apart the fringes of conservatism (with his new found hated status by said fringe being front and center) than the core of liberalism, which I think is so much more fun to attack.

Donald Douglas at American Power has noticed the same thing.

Kudos to Stubborn Facts for this post.

UPDATE: Donald on LGF's attacks on the anti-jihadis:
I don't know Charles Johnson, but I'm friends with all the other parties to this debate. I communicate with Pamela Geller by e-mail every few days. Robert Stacy McCain is the coolest "blogfather" out there, and we talk by telephone in addition to e-mailing. And I've been friends with Michael van der Galien for a couple of years now, sharing blog posts and what not.

Pamela is passionate and vigilant in what she does, but to attack her as "fascist" is beyond the pale. I know fascists. I've been attacked by fascists. I've repudiated fascists. Pamela is no fascist. She points out that Michael van der Galien is a convert to Islam, however, which might explain why he's so quick to choose up sides (see, a bit on Michael's views at "'Pure Islam' and Michael van der Galien").

Now, to be clear: I'm not out to ruffle feathers, and not Charles Johnson's by any means. But sometimes you have to take a stand: I think Michael's wrong on this one: Little Green Footballs gives aid and comfort to the enemies of conservatism, or as The Educated Shoprat notes at this post, "He's done an Andrew Sullivan. No other way to put it."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Utahn #7: The Late Night God-State Lament

Nobody native born has every really experienced real tyranny. We have people from hundreds of nations who've lived under dictators, Soviets, mullahs and the like. So its only natural for a the people of a nation who's never had a real tyrannical government for more than a few years, during wartime no less, to call everything they don't like tyrannical, yet vote themselves slowly in to the very thing they despise.

It wasn't until Teddy Roosevelt that the president suddenly became a grand man of action, galloping into the face of crisis to slay the dragon by force of will. Before that, even during war, the president wasn't the God that we have today. Even during Lincoln, despite the huge abuses, was never that personality driven. Now, presidents are elected more so on their ability to inspire, not their ability to lead. Sorry, hopeful idealists! Inspiring and leading are two completely different things.

Along with this fetish with personality of action, we have people assuming the president has some kind of power to stop all evils. The backlash against Bush for 911 is one example. Also, the venomous attacks against the same president for the 1000 deaths during Hurricane Katrina bring out this odd idea that the president is God-like. He's not. He's not supposed to be. There is no good reason for you to believe that the president can do everything good and stop everything bad.

This belief is part of the God-State (or nanny state) have driven people to conspiracy. Bush blew up the levees. Clinton had a his buddies killed. Obama is a secret Muslim fascist. The president is now so important that the world hinges on the secrets of the president. The president now controls this vast, god-like nation that can smite anyone. “If only it was in our hands,” the parties say.

Should we have a position, originally just an executor of the law and the will of Congress, now a man who has this myth of all-powerful. From Jefferson's worry over the constitutionality of the Louisiana Purchase to the ad hoc creation of committees that control whole swathes of industry. From a simple job of executor and protector to all-out messiah no matter which party is.

How far we've come.

How far we've fallen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I've been combing over Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism the past few days. I began to re-read certain parts of the book because I had trotted over to David Neiwert's blog and, unfortunately, read his rehashing of his inaccurate view of fascism which consist of vain attempts to steer it from its proper place on the American left. After reading Neiwert's posts, I looked up Goldberg's responses to Neiwert's criticism and posts on fascism. All this re-reading of the fascism debate brought me to this idea (which is one of the points of Goldberg's book): one have fascistic tendency and not be a fascist.

Simplifying Fascism

In most political debate, a fascist is someone you don't like. For example, David Neiwert complaining that Posse Comitatus wasn't mentioned in Goldberg's book. Posse Comitatus is a radical, violent group that advocates for the devolution of political power down to the county level, not the all-encompassing omniscient government. In most intelligent political debate, a fascist is someone who has fascistic aspects that make their rival's ideology look bad. For example, one could argue President Obama's bureaucratic control over parts of the economy or the enamored mass movement that worked tirelessly to get him elected could be fascistic. In reality, fascism is much more basic than Nazi racial hegemony or aggressive foreign policy or a all-knowing police state.

At the core, fascism is an economic and social national unity that puts the state above that of the individual. Unlike communism, which professes global brotherhood between workers, fascism holds that the people of the nation, regardless of class, are a brotherhood and no one is above any other. While there are businessmen, factory workers, soldiers, priests, and so on, in a fascist nation they all are part of the national will, the national destiny.

Fascist economics are not the corporations running the government, which is the incorrect common knowledge, but in fact is the government running the corporations. Communists and socialists want to nationalize (or socialize, the terms are interchangeable) industry, putting it under the direct control of the government. Fascist, for the most part, direct industry through regulation or industry czars, while leaving the corporation in private hands. Government-supported corporations earn monopolies enforced by government regulations while those outside the government suffer due to the interference in the economy. Private-public projects are also part of a fascistic economy.

Socially, a base fascist nation would look down upon a diverse, fractured people. The American people have varying cultural and social cliques: blue-bloods in New York, celebrities and fame-pursuers in Los Angeles, social radicals in San Fransisco, God-fearing folk in Little Rock, etc. This, along with our separated powers and our democratic culture, prevented the rise of an American fascism during Wilson's term. Despite what is taught, fascism does not bring racism, new holocausts or any other kind of pagan crime that the Nazis committed. Fascism, in fact, brings out the “DNA” of a nation. The Italians had over a decade of fascism before the Nazis forced race laws on to it. In fact, Mussolini had Jews in his government until Hitler's threat. Like the economy, its about unity.

Fascistic Notions

Using this simplified (probably too simple, but I don't want to rewrite Goldberg's book) view of fascism, we can say some of our ideas on economy or society could be fascistic. For example, I believe that kids should go through at least a year of Boy Scout or military cadet training for the experience of camaraderie and the promotion of pride of country. Socially, that fits in to the fascistic notion of national unity and national pride. Does that make me a fascist? No, because I'm also for free markets and federalism, two things that are defiantly not part of the fascist platform.

With Obama, who has done a lot to convince many laymans that a fascistic government is on its way, he has taken the fascistic idea of national economic unity through the guidance of the government. He has also created a national volunteer program that some have called the Hitler Youth. This does not make President Obama a fascist. Unlike full fascist states, the economy is still relativity free market despite the millions of strings attached and the continuing bureaucracy being piled on it. Even if the government began to outright plan parts of the economy, the economics would still be only make it fascistic economically. As for the “Hitler Youth”, this shows how good our state run education system is. What Obama has created, at most, is a Civilian Conservation Corps and not an armed, para-military training corp for kids. From the information that's come out about about the GIVE Act, its pretty much a giveaway to Obama's community groups and not a secret army.

Fascism is a specific ideology. To be a fascist, you must advocate a national social and national economic unity that trumps federalism, our diverse geographic cultures and out capitalist economy. While there has been plenty of ideas that President Obama, as well as former President Bush, have promoted that are fascistic, it does not make one a fascist.

Use the word wisely because if we ever end up with true fascist running, no one will call him on it because they won't know what it is.

Is There a Hidden Agenda Behind the “Troubled Asset Relief Program?”

This past Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) fell close to 300 points mainly on the fear that Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, would not allow banks to repay loans borrowed from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) who wish to do so. His testimony on Tuesday did little to reassure the banks that he would change his position. After being in the “hot seat” for much of his testimony, one could basically conclude that the repayment of TARP loans will depend on the credit needs of the overall economy. The question that we are faced with is what factors determine the economy’s credit needs? Furthermore, why is the government suited to do this in a so called free market enterprise system? Even more to the point, how the government going to be at the helm when it caused the problem in the first place?

Geither’s testimony is disturbing for two key reasons: 1) the threat exists for the current non-voting preferred shares that the government owns to be converted in to common stock with voting rights; and 2) the current legislation brewing in Congress that would cap interest rates on credit cards.

If the government opts to convert their preferred shares in to common stock with voting rights, then it will effectively be part owner of the banks. This would give the Obama Administration major control over their operations and would effectively nationalize the banking system. Some may argue that our banking system has already been nationalized through the creation and expansion of the powers of the Federal Reserve. However, government ownership in the banks would effectively seal the deal since it can now control both sides: a) monetary policy and b) how funds are distributed.

Banks who borrowed TARP money now have to rely on government stress tests by regulators that will determine the institutions’ overall financial health. Mind you, these are the very same “regulators” that oversaw erroneous lending practices that brought about the financial meltdown. The parameters of the stress tests are unknown and will not be released to the public until April 24th. (1) Once the government sinks its teeth into something, it is very difficult for it to relinquish its hold. The history of government involvement in the market since the Great Depression illustrates this concept.

Ever since the “financial meltdown” came about last year, we have heard repeatedly about “frozen credit markets.” The entire purpose of TARP was to give banks money to lend in order to “unfreeze” the credit market. The reasoning was that if consumers and businesses couldn’t get access to credit, then America and the rest of the world would sink into a recession and possibly another Great Depression. If the government is so concerned about frozen credit markets, then why is Congress currently trying to pass legislation that would cap interest rates on credit cards, which would ultimately restrict the flow of credit?

Congressmen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have proposed legislation that would cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent. (2) On the surface, this may seem like a good idea as it is a natural reaction to initially embrace the populist view of people struggling in a sluggish economy being forced to pay very high interest rates on credit cards. However, caps on interest rates mean rationed credit. If credit card companies cannot tailor interest rates to one’s credit risk, then only the wealthy and those who have spotless credit will be able to obtain a credit card. This is a classic example of the government having its foot on the both the gas and break pedals at the same time.

High interest rates indicate a market correction. The government is talking about frozen credit markets; however the action taken by credit companies indicates otherwise. Interest rates rise as a result of the growing number of people who are unable to repay what they have borrowed. Banks through the coercion of the government have overextended credit to people for a very long time. As a result, the oil shock that came about last year has squeezed people into bankruptcy. Now it is time for the market to correct past wrongdoings.

From the perspective of the credit card companies, the money that is loaned out to consumers by way of a credit card is unsecured debt, meaning no collateral is offered. When people buy a house or an automobile, the loan is secured by the asset itself. In the event of a default, the bank can recoup the loss by repossessing the house or the automobile. Credit card companies do not have that option. Therefore, credit card companies must assess individual risk and systemic risk when determining interest rates.

The other factor that is being left out of the populist talk in Washington is individual responsibility. Does any of the blame rest on the consumer? Isn’t it fair to say that people abuse credit? What is not being discussed here is that people have the option not to pay interest if they own a credit card. How many people take advantage of borrowing money interest free for the duration of the grace period? High interest rates do not affect people who pay their bill on a monthly basis. The bottom line is people have a choice when it comes to paying credit card interest, and the terms and conditions are spelled out to the credit card holder in advance. Rather than cap interest rates, perhaps some consumers need to rethink how they use credit. Otherwise, credit cards will no longer be accessible to a great number of people.

It is possible that a hidden agenda exists to nationalize the financial sector. The government has the power to use talk of reckless lending practices, “loan shark” interest rates and instability in the market as a means for it to step in and correct said “injustices.” The Obama team has blamed free market capitalism. However, if one takes the time to examine the situation closer, it will reveal that the government’s hands in the financial sector have caused much of the agony that the world has experienced over the past year. A free market is a market free of government interference. That hasn’t been the case since inception of the FED in 1913 and the stricter government regulation and control that has followed in the ensuing decades. Higher taxes, government ownership in major banks and interest rate caps will only stifle the growth of capital needed to lead America into a healthy, prosperous economy.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Forgotten Civil Right Remembered...

The 9th rules that the Second Amendment must be incorporated. Many appeals down the road, but for now, its a great victory.

Utahn #6: The Revolutionary Wardrobe

I don't know why I hadn't realized this before, but since my conversion to the conservative schools of thought I no longer choose my clothes based on what message I want to sent to the people around me. Its was a staple of most of my teenage years up until my move to Salt Lake that my t-shirt I was wearing was on me for a reason. Its pretty much a staple of the protest left and the patriotic right that you've got to get our your voice anyway you can. I just don't feel that anymore.

You know, I actually had two shirts of Mao from China. My dad got them on a business trip to Beijing. Thinking of it now, thinking of the millions that died under Mao, isn't wearing a shirt with his likeness and his slogans on it akin to wearing a Hitler tee with “The 1000 Year Reich” on it? Well, in the West, not really, since socialism and communism are still considered to be a legitimate ideologies despite the approximately 120 million killed under its name.

I'd wear Mao and Che a lot, especially during my most radical years at college. I actually had a friend and classmate, who considers himself a “liberal” according to his Facebook, scold me on wearing the face of the infamous Argentinian. He told me about the people Che killed, but at that time I had considered those deaths necessary for the greater good of the destruction of capitalism. At that time, the revolution was the end, revolutionary violence the means. Who cared who died as long as it wasn't the “good” people.

Even after becoming a libertarian and working at the Dr Phil show, I had the need to show some kind of rebellion when weekends rules changed. I bought a hat and a few shirts from the Industrial Workers of the World, a anarchist union, and wore them for a few days, but it was pretty childish and futile. I was pissed more at the fact my job was way more difficult and degrading than I thought it would be. Still, after that, I stuck to wearing BDU pants and politics/military t-shirts, as if wearing them made me any tougher or made my thoughts any different. Even at 22, my mind wasn't fully expunged of childish views on clothes and image.

It wasn't until after settling in Salt Lake City that my wardrobe became less a political statement than something I was wearing. I had tossed the Che and Mao shirts before I had moved to Los Angeles, and before leaving L.A. I threw the IWW shirts and stuff into a trash bag, hoping to give it away before the move, but its currently buried somewhere in my storage closet. Today, I wear a white t-shirt and blue jeans nearly everyday.

I wonder if your clothes and what they say, or don't say, can really reflect your maturity or your demeanor? For some, I bet. For me, well, since I'm not advertising anymore, I think it would be a bit harder.

Anyway, just thought it was an interesting thing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Clarification on the Tea Party Movement

It’s quite clear that the left is angered and concerned about the tea party participants who demonstrated across the nation on April 15th. Over the past few days, we’ve heard left-wing commentators like Keith Olbermann accuse FOX news of overestimating the amount of participants. To add insult to injury, his guest Janeane Garofalo said the following: “a bunch of tea bagging rednecks….this is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up.” We all know how low Olbermann stoops to distort reality, but this is a new record.

Not to be outdone by Olbermann, other far-left sites such as “Media Matters” and the “Huffington Post” made sure to cherry pick demonstrators that carried offensive signs that had nothing to do with the matter at hand. They chose to ignore mainstream folks who were there for very legitimate reasons. While FOX news chose to simply cover the event as any news station should, the network has been accused by NBC and CNN of being “right-wing.” It’s comical that networks that don’t even attempt to hide left-wing bias accuse another network of bias on the other side. It seems that there is a great deal of confusion between commentators and reporters. Commentators like Sean Hannity are not to be confused with reporters who are supposed to report the news. The difference is that networks such as CNN and NBC have their commentators report the news and try to pass it off as “fair and balanced.” For example, the following video shows CNN reporter Susan Roesgen caught “red-handed” in the act:

What CNN Didn't Show

Instead of adhering to the concerns of constituents like any elected official should do, Washington politicians made sure to join in the act of distortion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the following: “This tea party initiative is funded by the high end – we call it Astroturf, it’s not really a grassroots movement. It’s Astroturf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class.”

So there you have it, and the drivel from the left continues…

The bottom line is the left is afraid because they know the real underlying reason behind these movements, and is clearly not driven by racism or the rich elite. I suppose we can excuse Nancy Pelosi’s comment. After all, she doesn’t know it’s possible to have a real grassroots protest as almost all left-wing protest groups are backed by 501(c) groups like “” Union workers are actually PAID to protest. It’s impossible for her to believe that people can use the power of the internet and organize across the country to oppose her policies.

The bottom line is people have had enough. Libertarians like me are tired of not having a voice in government. This is what networks like NBC and CNN didn’t report. Many of the protesters there believe the following:

First, there is not much difference between Democrats and Republicans. Both parties are funded by the same lobbyists and large corporations. People are tired of the lack of a limited government option when they go to the voting booth. There were plenty of signs and people who acknowledged George W. Bush’s failed economic policies that actually paved the way for the Obama Administration to pick up where Bush left off.

Second, there is much hatred and discontent for the Federal Reserve and large centralized banking. People realize that the FED’s policy has a direct impact on their purchasing power. While elected officials like to center tax policy around class warfare, they conveniently ignore what hyperinflation can do to middle class folks. In addition, the “rich” folks that they like to “soak” are not the power elite. Many are small business owners who provide jobs to people and are forced to pay the same tax rates as billionaires.

Third, people are strongly opposed to corporate bailouts which were supported by both Democrats and Republicans. This goes back to the first issue where these same corporations are buying our elected officials. Failure is a necessary part of capitalism. Without it, we are seeing the monopolized effect of large corporations that are “too big to fail.” They have grown in size primarily because they have been propped up by political connections. Without competition, choice is limited, and the power for abuse is great. Capitalism is not about Washington, the FED and a few large corporations having the power to make or break an economy.

Finally, people are paying close attention to the kind of debt the country has sunk itself into. It is estimated that the federal deficit will exceed $1.2 trillion this year, and total debt is approaching $11 trillion. Regardless of what political party is in control, reckless spending continues.

In summary, “IT’S ECONOMIC POLICY STUPID!!” I’ve been writing about bad economic policy for years, and finally people are beginning to see it for themselves. It’s comical that the Bush Administration touts the fact that Americans were kept safe after 9/11. There may have not been another attack on American soil, but what about the dangers of a weak economy? Bush’s economic policy did not center on a strong U.S. dollar. How vulnerable is America in a weakened economic state? How dangerous is it for the leader of the free world to say that the principles of the free market should be put aside in order to save it?

If Bush’s policies weren’t bad enough, we now have the Obama Administration and a Congress that has spent money in ways never seen before in American history. Elected officials do not read the bills they sign into law. There is no transparency, as the stimulus measures were not made available for public inspection until AFTER it was signed into law. This was not consistent with Obama’s campaign promise of transparency.

In the meantime, individual states are raising taxes on everyone. Property taxes have dramatically risen in many states along with sales tax and various fees. States have been forced to raise taxes in order to comply with many federal mandates aimed at growing entitlement programs. If Obama thinks he can quell angry crowds by giving people a few dollars more in their paychecks, he is mistaken. The chump change he is offering pales in comparison to rising state taxes and the inflationary threat America faces due to his policies along with Congress and the FED.

If economic policy doesn’t become “change we can believe in,” these tea parties will only give way to an even larger populist revolt.

The American Prospect's Utopia: Perfect Worlds and Honest Terrorists

Looking for something to criticize, I came across an article at the American Prospect which compares the legal memos and a report by the International Committee of Red Cross that interviewed top level terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo. While it is a worthwhile endeavor to search out and try to stop torture (please read the entire article), especially torture by the United States government, the liberal and leftist intellectuals have come to the conclusion torture is any kind of uncomfortable or humiliating interrogation technique. Coupled with the belief that the ICRC report is accurate, the analysis by Adam Serwer comes across as insightful mixed with a very heavy dose of utopia.

Guilty, But Assumed Innocent

The first and most annoying part of this article is the constant questioning of the guilt of the high-level terrorists mentioned. Such lines as “Abu Zubayda, who was believed to be a senior member of al-Qaeda” and “Abu Zubayda, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were all considered to be high-level al-Qaeda operatives” [emphasis added] seem to me to convey that these self-proclaimed terrorists are somehow not guilty terrorists. I may be totally off-base here, but either Mr. Serwer doesn't want to proclaim guilt or doesn't believe they are guilty. Because I have respect for the American Prospect due to the fact they aren't the mudslinging celebrities of the Huffington Post or the snarky Manhattan intelligentsia of the New York Times Op-ed, I'll assume they don't want to proclaim guilt as if the terrorists are normal criminal suspects that have yet to be convicted.

The idea that captured terrorists, both admitted and suspected, are just like normal criminals is folly. I've covered this in Liberties, Rights and War:
Our enemies are citizens of other states, but their allegiance is to a network, not a nation. They come from our allies and our enemies, but they are not fighting for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkmenistan or Iraq; they are fighting for a empire that doesn't exist and belong to a group that spans dozens of nations. The extent and the power of Al Qeada was as alien to the writers of [the] Geneva [Convention] as using planes as missiles was to our security apparatus on 9/11. The connections between nations and this group are so complex that it would be akin to trying to show a caveman how the Space Shuttle flies. Simply calling them criminals sullies the term.
Because of their civilian view of terrorism, the fact that we harshly interrogate these “criminals” makes them squeamish because they believe such treatment violates the rights that criminals in America have. But these people, these terrorists, are not normal criminals and we have not been simply chasing singular suspects around the globe with warrants and FBI helicopters. We are in a war. A war they declared 3 years before they attacked us on our own soil. A war that has never been fought before in modern times and has no modern rules despite what internationalists say. Considering that the previous international consensus on groups like Al Qeada was extra-judicial execution, I think the rulebook the United States is writing ad hoc is a tad more humane than the one the British used against pirates and other such non-state entities.

Trusting The Enemy

The report on “torture” by the ICRC interviewed over a dozen prisoners at Gimto. In the report, it detailed many different alleged abuses by the interrogators at the prison. When the report was leaked to a liberal reporter, it became a rallying flag for those who wished to prove the United States was sadistically abusing innocent people. Mr. Serwer uses the report to compare what the CIA was allowed to do and what allegedly happened to the prisoners. For people who usually don't trust the military or intelligence sectors of the government, the liberals and leftists apparently have some kind of trusting relationship with the mass murdering, civilian decapitating, misogyny promoting sectors of the Islamist movement. Throughout the article, Serwer invokes the word of the detainee to show the extent of “torture” done by the interrogators. For instance:
Abu Zubayda, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were all considered to be high-level al-Qaeda operatives. All three were waterboarded and told the ICRC that waterboarding caused them "considerable" pain. Zubayda, who had sustained gunshot wounds to the thigh, stomach, and groin, told the ICRC that "the pressure of the straps on my wounds caused severe pain. I vomited." Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who has admitted to being the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, also told the ICRC that he sustained injuries as he struggled against the leather straps while being waterboarded.
And there's this:
Detainees said that their legs and ankles swelled as a result of their arms being shackled in the stress position and that they were forced to defecate on themselves. Occasionally, detainees said, they were allowed to sit on a bucket to use the bathroom but were not allowed to clean themselves afterward. Only one of the detainees who experienced this agreed to have his name published.
Its no secret to those who have followed the War on Terror, or to anyone who's read any non-fiction accounts of a covert operation, that our enemies lie. Al-Qeada isn't simply a group of backwater villagers angry at America's interference in the so-called Muslim world. Its composed of expertly trained soldiers and covert agents who not only train in bomb making, coordinated assaults, kidnapping, actual sadistic torture and other violent measures, they also train in resisting interrogation and disinformation. Anyone remember the “Koran in the Toilet” story?

I don't really fault the honestly concerned liberals and leftists for their belief. Well, not as much as I would fault politicians like John Murtha or Dick Durbin, or lunatic fringe groups like, Democratic Underground or Communist-run A.N.S.W.E.R.. Accounts of real torture done to real innocents by such states as China, Iran, Ba'athist Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and so forth have created a simplistic notion that if someone says they are tortured, they must be telling the truth; the state's record on human rights and agenda of the victim non-withstanding. For example, when a democracy activist in China is thrown in a secret jail for years, then leaves with a permanent limp, psychological problems and a few stories about being beaten with bamboo sticks, its likely that he was tortured by China's security apparatus, which has a long record of torture of political prisoners. Contrast that with an internationally wanted, expertly trained terrorist that is sent to a publicly acknowledged military prison, interrogated harshly and ends up giving valuable intelligence on other high level terrorists which ends up interrupting terror plots that would of killed thousands (the West Coast Plot) . Later, interviewed by an internationally respected non-profit, non-partisan medical group searching for abuses, he tells them about the horrors he endured in the captivity of the nation who has liberated countless millions from the very tyranny that the terrorist is trying to impose all over the world. Not only that, the very same country he is captive of has let go hundreds of his associates due to a lack of evidence against them, and many of those associates have ended up dead or back in prison due to returning to the violent war against the country that holds him.

I don't know about you, but even if I was totally sure the United States had been intentionally torturing prisoners (which we may have done, we won't know the full story until way after this war is over), I still wouldn't take the word of men who's very goal in life is the opposite of my beliefs. Really, who are you going to trust? The guy or gal who has the job to save your life, or the guy who's trying to enslave you or kill you to sate his perverted religious dogma?

Reality and Utopia

The morality of what we've done to the terrorist prisoners is mostly a subjective matter. From a purely objective standpoint, even if the entire ICRC report is true, the United States has barely dipped its toe in to the scum filled waters of real torture. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of nations today practice institutionalized torture in law enforcement or military matters. Few of those nations are under as much scrutiny by its own population, the populations of other nations, lawyers from other nations and lawyers from international organizations as United States. Out of the tens of thousands of prisoners that have gone through the hands of the US military a minority of them have been held for any length of time, a minority of those have been put through any harsh interrogation and minority (approximately two dozen) of those have been put under constant harsh interrogation. Out of those tens of thousands of prisoners, under a dozen have died due to abuse by interrogators or guards and those who have committed such acts have been prosecuted by the very military that employed them. Self-scrutiny is something not practiced by those interrogators employed by China or Cuba or Saudi Arabia or Egypt where its their job to beat the crap out of their prisoners and death is just an unfortunate side affect of punishing them for their real or political crimes.

I've written on this before, but it must be said again: we do not live in a perfect world. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to capture terrorists attacking us on the battlefield and trying to explode bombs in our cities. In a perfect word, these terrorists would not keep their plots and associates secret, but tell us as soon as they're caught. In a perfect world, we would not have to come up with harsh methods that break the expert training given to these terrorists who keep their plots and associations secret. In a perfect world, the United States would be appreciated for its countless acts of kindness, heroism and friendship, and it would be scolded and forgiven for the many past instances of recklessness and short-sightedness. But this isn't a perfect world and we are imperfect people.

Adam Serwer should be commended for believing that the United States should not be torturing people. He should be admired for his passion against horrible acts of sadism against the innocent. He should have our respect for having principles. But, in light of where his spotlight is and where it isn't, Mr. Serwer should be criticized for his naivety and his ignorance. Its one thing to keep an eye on the government's treatment of prisoners; its another to hold it up to higher standards than other, crueler nations. And its a whole other universe to take the word of dogmatic religious nuts bent on creating a ideologically homogeneous world theocracy over those who are doing their damnedest to prevent those nuts from killing your countrymen.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Torture Has Lost All Meaning (and I Blame the Media)

A few days ago, the White House released memos concerning the interrogation of high-level terrorist suspects. Immediately, the condemnations spread across the political sphere like wildfire. Calls for arrests for war crimes, prosecutions, moral outrage and the like were typed and posted on to blogs, spoken to cameras and crowds, and an endless stream of misconceived legal knowledge was touted as fact. All this over memos that talked about nothing more shocking than what our soldiers go through during prisoner of war training.

You can read the lack of legal ramifications here. My concern isn't with the legality, but the moral outrage by the antiwar crowd and its overall impact on the way we fight our enemies. To the outraged amputation, nail pulling, breaking bones, branding or forced drowning are equal to sleep deprivation, forced nakedness, fluctuating temperatures, loud music or simulated drowning. Its like comparing Serbian actions in Kosovo to the Holocaust, the Flight at Kitty Hawk to the Moon Landing, and so on. It may be in the same city, but no where close to the same ballpark.

We seem to live in a time where there is an assumption that because the United States is a free, equal and prosperous nation it must give up all three to create a utopian example for the rest of the world to follow. If we are to protect our rights, we must give them up to those who would kill us. If we end all governmental discrimination, we must discriminate against the majority for the minority. If we are to keep our wealth, we must subsidize the mistakes of others without benefit to ourselves. In this universe, the world follows our City on the Hill and peace and harmony spreads across the Earth. Alas, this world doesn't exist. Its not even close to existing. Its barely an idea, let alone a coherent philosophy to transition to from our current freedom oriented ideologies.

Our world is nothing like the moralists hope it is. Since the end of a fifty year, multi-proxy war between two nuclear powers there have been over 60 wars, civil wars, insurgencies and other major conflicts. Over sixty in less than twenty years. The low ball toll from all these wars nears around seven to ten million lives. As of today, there are at least a dozen conflicts going on. Just last year there were four separate invasions/border wars (Comoros-Anjouan, Thailand-Cambodia, Djibouti-Ethiopia, Russia-Georgia). Despite American examples of going to the UN, respecting PoWs, treating prisoners (even terrorist prisoners) with respect, the crimes and abuses done by other nations in these four conflicts dwarf the heinous acts we saw at Abu Ghraib, let alone waterboarding by professional interrogators.

There are those out there who would like to think the American citizen has become desensitized to violence and abuse through their exposure to its simulation in movies and video games. I think the reaction of millions of people to the so-called “crimes” of the American government shows, in fact, that the American populace has been shielded to the realities of war and terrorism. In movies, no one is really hurt when the bad guy massacres a village, rapes a woman, tortures the good guy's family. You have special knowledge in the back of your head that keeps saying “its all pretend!”. Well, in the real world, where massacres are common, rapes mutilate and torturing of innocents actually hurts, you can't fight it with James Bond or psychics or some kind of good moral violence that the peanut gallery approves of.

In the real world, you need things like waterboarding to break terrorists who have been expertly trained to resist interrogation. In the real world, not breaking the terrorist and disseminating what he knows may cause 3000 more people to die, or worse. In the real world, you have to stare into the eyes and understand the mind of a mass murdering religious cultist so your children don't have to. In the real world, we are harsh and ruthless to terrorists, but we do not make them uncomfortable or harm them for fun. In the words of the experts, “The point of interrogation is intelligence, not confession.”

Utopian moralities, like utopian politics, will always be outraged because no one could meet their standards of conduct in the world we live in. At least with Christianity there's a route to forgiveness for the sins you commit. With our harping utopians, you were screwed from the second you thought to defend your country.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why I'm Right Wing: War and War Diplomacy

Throughout this series I've used war policy to expand on ideas of liberties and other such topics. War is something no country can avoid. From the smallest African territories to the largest developed nations, war comes to everyone. Opinions on war are as diverse as the racial make up of our nation; from pacifist libertarians and communists to imperial democrats and socialists. Ideas on fighting war, how to organize troops, what technologies to pursue, what tactics to use; the free market of ideas has brought us to our top spot in the world. This post will give general ideas and suggestions that are only my opinion. I am in no way a military expert or an expert on war policy and do not expect anyone but myself to take any part of my ideas seriously. But I am a compulsive writer. C'est la vie.

Last Resort or Extension of Diplomacy?

First, let's define my views on war.

If you troll a message board, a live debate or any kind of policy article, there will mostly likely be a clear distinction between the (simplified) schools. On one side, there is the idea that war, no matter the circumstances, must be the very last decision of the government. To the “last resort” school, at least to that faction that presented itself during the pre-Iraq War buildup, all options other than war must be expended to prevent the use of the military, which includes the United Nations. Of course, not all “last resort” factions hold that the UN is the final straw before the bombs drop; some draw the line at the evocation of war powers by the President or the authorization of force by Congress. Their basic point is that the United States should not commit to conflict without making sure it is absolutely necessary.

The other school is that of using war as an extension of ideological and diplomatic goals. For example, the neo-conservative theory of planting the seeds of democracy in the Middle East is an idea where war is a tool to achieve a global democratic international community that will aid the interests of the United States. The Iraq War was in-part the first run of this theory, and despite the criticism by isolationists, leftists and realists and those who call themselves “realists”, the actual planting of democracy in Iraq has done a lot of good for the Iraqi people. The economy is rebuilding quickly, voting has become a common event and with the country stabilized, social interaction and political differences are resolved much more peacefully than they were under Saddam Hussein The spreading of it from Iraq to the Middle East tyrannies, though, is slow (voting rights are slowly coming to some nations) as to be non-existent. Neo-conservative democracy theory is not the only “war as a tool” theory. There are those who actually debate the idea of invading nations for resources, creating some kind of 1800s style imperialism, and other such ideas.

I have a hybrid view of the two school. I do not believe that war should be the very last resort despite all other options. To attempt to put off war until all other avenues have been walked may allow the enemy time to strengthen their defenses even more or even mount a surprise first strike. To go as far as the left wished (attain a concrete resolution giving the war a green light) we went during before the Iraq War would of kept us wrapped in red tape for months beyond the perfect time to invade. Unlike the previous conflict with Iraq where the threat was universal and the world united against Hussein, the Iraq War threat was aimed at Western nations and the world was split between the US-led “coalition of the willing” and the antiwar, sometimes anti-American faction led by France and Russia. Previously, a great stake of the oil market was to be under Iraqi control. More recently, the Iraqi threat was based upon uneven intelligence of a restated weapons program and the Iraqi connections with various terrorist groups. Despite the mistakes that were made with intelligence, the threat from Saddam Hussein's police state was there, although not as dreadful as it seemed. If the United States had waited any longer than it did, with the intelligence it had, it would not only be risking a first strike by Iraq (who had been given notice months before the invasion and had an extensive defensive network since 1991), but would risk adverse weather and morale difficulties if the waiting went any longer.

Though the sound of revolutionary democratic change is a emotionally exciting idea, the United States' support of liberal democracies, and its use of military force to defend itself and other nations, has largely put democracy on the back burner compared to the immediate destruction of the enemy. Democracy wasn't necessarily on the minds of the leaders during World War I or World War II when many, many American rights were violated in the name of fighting the Germans and Japanese. Not to mention our alliances with Soviet Russia, authoritarian Nationalist China and Communist China, and other temporary alliances that were less than open to the idea of democratic tools for political decisions. Not to say that we should not support modern democracies like Israel, Georgia or any other fledging open societies, but we should not turn fanatic when a nation tries voting instead of tyranny.

[Quick tangent: Although the critics of our support of internal democratic change would like to point back to the Cold War and our hand in the overthrow of other “democratic” movements and governments, there is plenty of evidence that those elected governments were actively working with the USSR and/or undermining the liberties of their own people with their policies. The Cold War was a dark time in world history and what we did was both ruthless and necessary. Of course, we made mistakes, but would you rather have today Communist superpower or a democratic superpower?]

No nation, especially now, has the resources or the will to create an imperial state in the model or on the scale of the Victorian empires. With that, no nation, if it values its own sovereignty above that of other nations, would hand over its war making decisions to an international body that may or may not hold the same views, let along the same perception of threat, as the nation that comes asking for authority to commit to war. America is unique in that it can strike almost anywhere at anytime with enough force as to cause much trouble for the targeted nation, but we do not have, nor will we ever have, the ability to create and maintain any kind of global empire we are constantly accused of attempting. The neo-conservatives and their idealism could never be maintained even if it took one hundred years of consistent policy.

In light of all this, the loss of sovereignty by relegated the decision to go to war to foreign bodies and our inability to take upon ourselves the ideological goals of spreading liberty-friendly ideas by force, I find it best the United States take a lesson from the Greek students of Socrates and practice moderation.
For example, the Kosovo War, in my opinion, was a war based on ideological and humanitarian grounds, not any practical diplomatic or geopolitical grounds. Our intervention against the Yugoslavian governments heavy-handed response to ethnic Albanian terrorism ended up inciting old and new ethnic nationalism among countries like Russia, Macedonia and Georgia. There was no real benefit for the United States to participate in the continuing break up of Yugoslavia, other than to attain some kind of humanitarian moral high ground by saving the majority Muslim ethnic Albanians from the media-saturated actions of Serbian soldiers. What we did in 1999 ended up kicking us in the butt when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 under the auspices of saving the Ossetian people from Georgian soldiers, though the evidence of any Georgian crimes have yet to come to light, unlike the Serbian crimes (though they were much, much less in brutality and size than the initial reports used to justify the war on Yugoslavia). Our condemnation of the invasion was met with retort of “hypocrite” by even some of our closest allies. Something that doesn't aid in any future need for them against states like Iran.

Basically, the United States should do its best to refrain from ideological or idealistic wars like Kosovo or the underlying democratic revolutionary taint of the Iraq War. Unlike the Cold War, the United States will have to deal with a more decentralized, Enlightenment-age power balance between up-and-coming nations like China, Brazil and India as well as the European Union and Russia (if Russia does not collapse under its own demographic decline). While the United States will not fall during this rise as long as it holds to its capitalist economy and individualist soicety, it will have to contend with sating or containing these powers in the pursuit of its own interests. No longer can we have wars based on our ideals, but we should save our diplomatic capital for times when nations like Russia or China decide to unleash a proxy or their own military upon a neighbor. When that happens, we will have our troops unstuck from Iraq and, hopefully, from other cooling spots, and be able to confront such aggression head on with a show of force, or if necessary, force itself.

Fighting Terrorism

Its no secret that the War on Terror is unlike any other war we have fought in our history. We've fought the Indian Wars, the Civil War, the countless insurgencies after the Spanish-American War, Vietnam; all of those wars involved irregular forces, but those forces were connected to the belligerents. As far as I know, this is the first time our nation (or any nation) has attempted to defeat a transnational terrorist organization. This isn't an easy war, this isn't a short war, and anyone who thought it would be easy or short was kidding themselves. Also, anyone who believes this is a war against a “tactic”, which is a common criticism, have no idea of the extent of Al-Qeada's reach or its influence upon countless “resistance” groups.

Some like to point out that before the Operation Enduring Freedom, Al-Qeada was a physical threat concentrated in Afghanistan and after it morphed into a hydra-like organization, therefore much harder to defeat. Al-Qeada had never been anything of the sort. Created after Osama bin Laden's first group Maktab al-Khadamat split, Al-Qeada was a clearing house for many different Islamist groups. Osama bin Laden's money funded countless thousands bent on jihad. After the war against the Soviets, confident of his ability to bring down empires, Osama turned his eyes on the United States and its influence upon his homeland of Saudi Arabia. With his connections to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which eventually folded into Osama's Al-Qeada, he was able to send agents to attempt the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. Over the years, many attempted attacks and many successful attacks were executed on American and other Western targets. Also during this time, Al-Qeada was spreading its influence to groups like Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines, the Islamic Courts in Somalia, separatists in Yemen, religious Chechen nationalists, Islamists in Jordan, Hamas in the Occupied Territories and so on. While it is true that Al-Qeada had much of its infrastructure and training camps in Afghanistan, by the time we drove them out they already had infested dozens of nations across the world.

Now that we have cut the head off of Al-Qeada and driven what central leadership it had into near isolation in Pakistan (as well as bury 30 – 60 000 Islamists in the Iraqi desert), I believe our military focus must be less of mass invasions and brigade-size deployments and turn to more rapid, flexible and covert operations against these Al-Qeada associated terror groups that plague our allies. Some nations already have our assistance in fighting their local Islamist chapters, but with the withdrawal from a stable Iraq we could divert these resources to expanding the Army Rangers, the Special Forces (Green Berets), Navy SeALs and Delta Force. Our ability to deploy quickly and strike ruthlessly and accurately would put these groups on a very unbalanced footing and, hopefully, make them think twice about initiating operations against our friends and the United States. Of course, fanatics are not known for their reason, so we should not simply assume they will stop after a successful operation, but we should follow up with any number of “aftershock” operations (as needed) to continually keep the enemy out of balance. There are those who say we can never win the War on Terror, even if that is true, there are ways to prevent these murderous groups from being able to successfully attack us like they did on 9/11.

Alliances and Preparing for New Rivals

The ascendancy of nations with both democratic and tyrannical governments with capitalist economies that bring in abundant treasure have become more vocal everyday. While it is quite ignorant to say that right now the world is “post-American”, as some so-called “realists” wish to proclaim, we should not doubt the future of these new powers influencing the Third World. India, Russia, China, Brazil, the collective known as the European Union; they all will want to push harder and faster for a place among the big boys, if they are not there already. These power struggles will eventually bring about (hopefully non-military) conflicts with us or between themselves, and that will spell disaster for us if we are not willing to confront and deter such attempts by the more tyrannical or rouge of nations; or that of nations wishing harm on us, but not to any of the other powers. To do this, I believe, we must embrace the obvious need for new loyal allies willing to step up when we ask.

If the pre- and post-Iraq War events have taught us anything, its that we need a solid base of strong, loyal allies. There were many reasons for the breakdown of our European relations during this time. Their aversion to blunt and aggressive language being amongst those reasons, the lack of support for the invasion among the voting populations and that a few of the major Western European nations had dealings with Saddam Hussein. Those kind of things. We learned that, to some, long lasting alliances based on a legacy of cooperation and respect can be overrun by hard talk, local politics and shady deals with soon-to-be toppled dictators. Of course, the Bush Administration's diplomacy wasn't exactly the stuff of legends, but the so-called “cowboy diplomacy” can hardly be the only reason (or be intelligently cited as why) our so-called allies turned against us.

The upside to the split in our alliances was that we found out that many third world nations had more stones than first world nations, including some with forces smaller than the NYPD. Brave Poland, free from Soviet tyranny for less than two decades, invaded along side our forces and the forces of the UK and Australasia (the only other first world forces that stayed true). In the post-invasion, developing nations like Honduras, Fiji, Guatemala, Georgia, Ukraine; they all stepped up to help. Other first world nations like Italy and Spain (who was behind the war from the start until a terrorist attack changed the mind of the voters) also sent soldiers to aid in security operations. Iraq, very bluntly and roughly, drew the line between those with us and those against us post-Cold War.

President Obama feels that we should try to bring the antiwar nations back in to our loyal fold. While commendable, I believe the split has given us the opportunity to take advantage of the reorganization of power in the wake of the Soviet's collapse. The Bush Administration's failure to communicate accurately the amount of allies we had led to the myth we had no allies during the war and after, which the media picked up and ran with, even while reporting the deaths of a dozen Italians in Baghdad, a couple Georgians in Basra, and so on. Instead of reaching out and attempting to return “Old Europe” to the table, we should give new democracies like Georgia and Honduras spots at the table usually reserved for France and Germany. I highly doubt those true believers in a united Europe want a return to the NATO of the Cold War, where the only thing between them and their enemies was an American unit. While good words of friendship and co-operation might pass through the lips of these folks, they're going to want to take the chance to prove their independence (despite the inability of the EU to even deploy units under a united flag or stop any conflict within their continental borders). Of course, I am not advocating we abandon any nation, European or otherwise, that that opposed us during the Iraq War, but we should not assume because the President has changed and his words are more diplomatic than assertive that these nations will just wind back the clock. With the rising towers of new powers like China and India, we need to be able to count on friends who won't attempt to prove they can stay home alone when we need them to come along with us.


The running theme of my views of war and diplomacy is our ability to adapt to the exponentially quickening pace of world affairs. We must be able to fight terrorism with quick, deep strikes that will throw off their plans and their support. Also,while we shouldn't be as brazen as President Bush was accused of being, we should be as blunt and stalwart about our security and our actions, something President Bush actually did do. We shouldn't gallop across the world attempting to remake it in the image of Athens as neo-conservatives would like, but we shouldn't give away our sovereign right to defend our nation as we see fit despite the consensus of the world's tyrannies and soft powers like many of the left would like. The application of our military must be based on criteria that balances our ideological goals like establishing democracies and stopping atrocities, which cannot be easily separated from our application of force and its aftermath, and with our practical goals of removing threats and keeping various international resources from being monopolized by radical nations. Neither can be kept indefinitely, neither can be ignored totally for the other.

If we are to keep on top, or at least not regulated to the backseat of a world driven by tyrannies like China or autocrats like Russia, we need to keep up with how the world is, not how we think the world should be. We can dream of global democracy, TVs for every human being, Islamists converted to humanitarians, etc., but if the United States can't hold on to its position as a major player it will be nations without our interests at heart controlling our fate. Even the most mainstream liberal Americans wouldn't want that.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On Taxes and Patriotism

There's a man that goes by the name Paul Begala who has apparently determined that its your patriotic duty to pay your taxes so the President can go on fixing the nation's woes without worry that you may have issues with how exactly he's doing it.

Paul Begala is an asshole.

Now, his argument centers around the Tax Day Tea Parties and the ignorant assumption that its participants are against taxes wholesale. The majority of Tea Party protesters are against massive government and wasteful spending, not taxes. Begala said that the first Tea Party was against taxation without representation, which is PARTLY true; the orginal tea party was also against government interference in the tea import businesss. Behold:
In 1772, the Indemnity Act 1767 expired (ah, for the days when British Acts had sunset clauses), thereby eliminating the full refund of the 25% tax on tea exported to the colonies. A new Act reduced the refund to three fifths, restored some other taxes repealed in 1767 and kept the Townshend tax in place. Result: a government-imposed increase in the price of tea and a consequent collapse in tea sales. The East India Company faced ruin - it needed a bailout!

Then as now, the correct bailout solution would have been to remove the government-imposed barriers to business, and let the East India Company sells its teas competitively (and this was what the Company asked for). To an extent, this was what happened. The Tea Act 1773 dropped the ban on the Company selling tea to America directly, so removing the middlemen and lowering prices, and restored the full refund of the 25% British tax. This enabled the Company at long last to sell tea cheaper than the smugglers.

But the Townshend duty remained, an affront to Americans and a symbol to the British government. Realizing the problem, the East India Company arranged for it to be paid in London or otherwise hidden. It was, in effect, an early Stealth Tax.

What happened next is well known - the Boston Tea Party was a protest against British usurpation of American liberties, not high taxes (as they had been reduced by the Tea Act 1773). Yet it was all the result of unnecessary government intervention in the market because some bright spark thought that it would be good for a company to have an income stream guaranteed by government.

In short, if we’d had a genuinely free market in tea in the 1700s, the tensions that led to the American Revolution would have been significantly reduced.
Begala has attempted to create a meme relabeling Tax Day, Patriot's Day. Apparently, for all his love of his country, he couldn't have taken two seconds to notice that Patriots' Day is the day remembering the Battle of Lexington and Concord. September 11th is known as Patriot Day. But do not fret over that, Mr. Begala, we know your Bush-hating, Obama-worshiping, cynical Iraq War ignorance is purely out a love of your country and has nothing to do with the fact you've been the attack dog of the Democratic Party for decades.

Conservatives and most libertarians have no problem paying taxes. Taxes alone are not the problem. The problem is the size and scope of taxes, what is being taxed, who is being taxed and how those tax dollars are being spent in the name of the citizenry that was taxed. Currently, those tax dollars are going towards things a good number of people don't like. Unless I'm mistaken, opposition to growing government spending was something Mr. Begala was against not too long ago (scroll to the 9:57pm post).

You don't have to like the government to be a patriot. All you have to do is love your country and the principles that it was founded on, even if you differ on the interpretation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Tea Parties: Taking Control of the Agenda

The Tax Day Tea Parties are becoming a rallying cry for the conservative movement. Not unlike the Iraq War for the left, the right is now enthusiastic about its own ideas and its activism. Unlike the left, these tea parties are not coordinated by national or international protest groups like ANSWER, Food Not Bombs, Code Pink, and so on. The tea parties are decentralized, local movements connected through a network of internet sites and radio shows. Each party has its own agenda aside from protesting the expansion of government under President Obama. Some are going after loose cannon representatives, others going after mayors or governors, some trying to reestablish free markets and capitalism as the primary economic view in the hearts of Americans. What is most important about the rise of this new conservative enthusiasm is the opportunity it presents to conservative leaders and intellectuals: the chance to direct the conservative movement for the next decade, at minimum.

The Old and The New

Reagan was swept in to the White House on the ballots of the so-called “Religious Right”. For better or for worse, the conservative movement was defined, above all other descriptions, on the moral and religious platforms it put out: abortion, intelligent design, marriage, religious freedom. For decades, the conservative movement and the Republican Party were accurately labeled, but inappropriately pigeonholed, as religious-based.. The next conservative candidate's victory (may it be 2012 or later) will be on the momentum of the 21st century conservative movement and whatever public image it decides to reveal.

In the aftermath of the Obama victory, there was talk of trying to rid conservatism and the Republican Party of this Reagan-era religious influence (or stigma, to some). I'm an atheist, but I don't think it was simply the religious faction within conservative politics that spelled the end of the Republican Revolution. The Bush Administration's “compassionate conservatism”, otherwise known as big government conservatism, made a mockery of the basic principles of small government, fiscal responsibility and free markets. Former Newt-style Republicans had to choose between voting against the party and the President or going along with a big government plan to be able to get influence later on. Along with Bush's anti-cosmopolitan personality, the complete massacring of his image in the press, the actual mistakes Bush made with Iraq and the non-starter economic plans like national searches for health insurance and privatizing Social Security; the conservative movements steam pretty much went dry. With the combination of big government conservatism and the religious talk that seemed to gain the ire and undue attention of press, the Republican brand became less a revolt against government and more an example of how to grow fat and pious in power.

My Ideal Movement

With the ability to redefine the conservative movement, my personal hope would be that the new movement take hold of three specific areas: history, economy and security.


Throughout the decades, proper history has been avoided or distorted by the populist sects of the left and right. For example, the left whines about the atrocities of Vietnam and the evils of the war even though it was liberal icon LBJ that escalated the war from an anti-insurgency operations under Eisenhower and Kennedy to a full blown military boondoggle that involved massive air power and insane rules on holding enemy territory. The right had (or still has, depends on who you ask) its own historical blunder in the afterglow of the victory over Saddam Husein's government. For months after most of the public had realized that our intelligence (and the intelligence of countless allied and neutral nations) on Iraq's WMDs turned out to be faulty, the right's populist wing and some of its intellectual circles were still insisting that the weapons were somewhere, maybe in Iran or Syria. Although it was plausible, the lack of any WMD attack on American troops and the unlikely pairing of Syrians and Iraqis (their respective governing Ba'ath parties detested each other) cast much doubt on the existence of any threatening WMDs.

Conservatives need to teach history if we are to inspire and educate the students and the citizenry at large. We should not simply hearken back to Ronald Reagan, though a great man. Are we to believe all Americans can't think past 1980? Conservatives should invoke the words of John Adams (“We are a nation of laws, not men.” “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”) or Barry Goldwater (“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”). We should explain the idea of federalism, true freedom of religion (not the freedom FROM religion, as the left interprets the Establishment Clause), true free speech (not the politically correct version) and the long, dignified history of the Second Amendment that stretches back to the English Civil War and the protection of individuals from the English state. We should finally put the rest the idea that statist, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist fascism can sprout from an ideology rooted in freedom, small government and free markets.

Republican politicians should hold seminars on how to best right these historical wrongs and historical hoaxes by the enemies of free thought. Conservative leaders should be nuances in their usages of ideological and historical references, so that no media nor any rival could take their words out of context (though its bound to happen). We need to educate ourselves on our history so we can educate the rest of America on their proud legacy of freedom, liberation, intellectual complexity and ideological roots.


Under Bush, the economy and the government were seen not as rivals, but as partners. Bush's philosophy was that instead of downsizing government, he could harness government for conservative ends. Unfortunately, very few things aside for social goals, corralling judicial overreach and defense, involve harnessing government instead of reducing it. The economy is basically the one thing that could always use less government control, outside of basic modern regulation, of course.

The tea parties are already focusing on the economy and economy policy, which is a great start, but like my proposal to teach proper American history conservatives much emphasize the details of a free market economy and of capitalism. You can't let a leftist talk about capitalist oppression or capitalist exploitation without a response on the how no one is forced into a job in a capitalist society. You can't allow people like Maxine Waters, Chuck Schumer and their ilk talk about reigning in corporations when all they are doing is creating monopoly-like conditions for their big bank and industry donors. There's a reason Schumer outed a California bank's shaky finances, which caused a bank run, and then later turned around and defended the solvency of his Wall Street donors. There's a reason Maxine Waters wanted to nationalize oil and nationalize Wall Street, but thought regulation didn't need to touch the bank she and her husband were involved in.

We must get out the word on the freedom of the capitalist system, the fair play of the market and the prosperity it all brings. We must educate the nation on how government interference creates the lobbyist, who in turn uses that government power in the economy to direct the money hose to his friends and not yours. We must not simply say, “Its the best system” without a damn good reason behind it.


The world doesn't stop at our borders. The dangerous nations don't become peaceful because we want them to. The violent nature of humanity isn't easily cowed by the behemoth of civilized life. The left believes that if you can change the culture you can change the very core of humanity. This a false utopia based upon bad sociology. Humanity is humanity. Civilization is a small, temporary cage of our inner beasts. Religion, laws, government; they all rise and fall eventually and through many dark ages within many different civilizations have the worst of our nature shown itself. Simplistic belief in the power of nurture does not make a good policy nor a good society. Conservatism is based, as its always has been, on the idea that good people are the only defense against the scourge of our own evils.

With that, we must not succumb to the ideas that have allowed countless crimes and holocausts to happen. We cannot believe every culture or nation is equal and worth the respect of a civilized nation if that nation is murdering children for questioning their religion, or wiping out whole ethnicities to please some kind of caveman blood hate, or unleashing zealots with bombs for the imperialist agenda of its unelected leadership. We must acknowledge the reality of evil acts and evil people, no matter the natural or supernatural reasoning we apply to explain them. We must de-legitimize the idea that words without the threat of action will sway our enemies to see reason. The world is still anarchistic, despite the facade we try to put upon it, and we cannot allow our dreams to get in the way of the way the world really is. We must emphasize the idea that to leave peacefully, we must make violent intent a very costly choice. If we are to live peacefully, our enemies must fear our wrath than that of their fanatics.

Change We Need

The conservative movement changes all the time, despite the common knowledge of some “educated” people. Before Reagan's Religious Right, Barry Goldwater led a Republican Party and conservative movement based on classical liberalism. Previous to that, President Theodore Roosevelt both enforced free market ideas as well as expanded government into areas it had never been before. President Taft had a totally different version of conservatism and is the icon of a branch of isolationist conservatism called paleoconservatism. There is no reason why we have to stay in the 1980s.

There are many new conservatives and conservative minded people out there: gay conservatives, a large new demographic of minority conservatives, libertarians, center-left national security hawks, and so on. As stated before, conservatives need not drop religion to sate the moderates or the left, but it must be able to raise up new issues on par with its religious and social traditionalism.

The new movement must be able to take on the left in all categories in all things. With that flexibility and that initiative, conservatism can take back the nation from those who would lambaste the people, the institutions and the events that gave them the freedom to think differently.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Ditty on Survivalism

I don't know about all my former comrades across the world, but when I was a dyed red anarchist I had deep survivalist notions about the world and, in fact, wished for them to come to fruition. When oil would spike, I'd look for signs of downfall. When wars would flare, I'd wish for revolutions. When things went bad, I'd see things going well. For me, when the world ended, the world had actually just began.

Survivalism isn't specifically an anarchist aspect, there are plenty of right-wing militias, cross-ideological conspiracy laden groups and various other sects within American politics that talk peace and utopia while planning for Armageddon. It was easier to be a survivalist as well as an anarchist, though, since having an ideology claiming the world works better without government has a greater chance of combining with survivalism than right-wingers that profess loyalty to the idea of US government or militant socialists who are for large government. Not all anarchists are survivalists, mind you, as there is a deep schism between the industrial world anarchists who wish to do away with class but keep the spoils, and the primitive, anti-industrial, anti-civilization anarchists who believe a better world is a world based on tribalism.

By itself, survivialism isn't ideological in the sense of conservative or liberal, but in that its a belief/set of beliefs that command the individual to plan for or to talk about a threat (in the less extreme) to plan for /talk about civilization collapse (in the most extreme). Pure survivalists are nearly impossible, though I think that the Alex Jones conspiracy people could be considered close. I can't imagine being that paranoid and being able to function.

Although I am now a libertarian conservative and no longer hold that the best thing for the world is the end of organized human society, I've never been able to shake the feeling that I need to plan for very bad things that may or may not happen. There is a reason, of course, and that is the way specific civilizations tend to turn against their own or collapse throughout history. I am not saying that America is near the edge, far from it. President Obama was elected with a majority and without any electoral violence despite his radical background and various other unsavory ideological aspects. That is proof enough that, right now, America has should not worry about any kind of civilization collapse. But, just because the America political system still works amazingly, it does not mean something cannot change the stability and safety of our nation. No one, and I mean no one, should assume we are safe from any kind of danger: crime, natural disaster, terrorism, war, etc.

I am not trying to scare, but advise. I find it that the people who panic the most are the ones who never think of the situation their in in the first place: bad weather car accidents, accidents while hiking, crime in the neighborhood, mass murder by the mentally insane, etc. No one and no government should turn paranoid about these things and turn simple vigilance to mass panic, but the inability to be alert to threats does not mean the threats do not exist and to not plan for these threats may mean a harder life afterward.

Again, I am not trying to scare. The rash of mass murder this past few weeks and within the past few years have shown that simple security procedures like security guards (for the immigration office in NY) or in the more expansive sense, armed teachers (Columbine, Virgina Tech) could prevent massive loss of life. Having emergency food storage, having a self defense weapon, having a simple plan to meet during a disaster; all these things tap in to the basic human urge to survive, which has been dumbed down with our comforting lifestyles.

For all the urge we love to give in to (food, sex, etc), why can't protecting ourselves count among them?