Liberty, Politics, Uncategorized

Who is winning the War on Terror?

16 years ago, the United States was attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists. 2,996 people were killed in what would be the beginning of the longest war in U.S. history. Hate for America goes back a long way in the Middle East. I am no historian. I know bits and pieces of what created this animosity, but not nearly enough to be able to say why. What I do know, is this terror group wanted to bring down the United States of America.

Today I want us to ask ourselves the question, “Who is winning the War on Terror?”

First, we need to define what “Terrorism” is. This can be difficult. Even the government waging the war can’t even agree on 1 definition (1). I am going to go with the Department of Defense definition which states, “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”

Second, we need to ask ourselves, “Did the terrorists achieve their goals?” What did the attacks change politically, religiously, or ideologically? Most obvious is the United States went to war in Afghanistan and later Iraq and now wherever the government wants to go (2). 16 years later, 6,915+ lives later (3), we are still fighting in the Middle East, including Afghanistan. While it is not the first time we have waged war without a Declaration of War as prescribed in the Constitution, it should be noted that we are fighting an undeclared war. This war has cost the United States $2,125,700,000,000 (4). In response to the terror attacks on 9/11/01 the PATRIOT Act was passed. This legislation has been used to justify warrantless spying on American citizens in a number of ways (5). Later the USA Freedom Act would reinstate spying programs that expired (6). What has become known as Indefinite Detention has become a “legal” option under the NDAA (7). We have also set a precedent for assassinating American citizens (including minors) without trial outside the battlefield (8). This is just a few of the political changes that have been made as a result of the terrorist attacks.

Ideologically what has the terrorists accomplished? After we took out, either directly or indirectly, multiple secular leaders, the Muslim extremists have established their Islamic State where they are able to brutally enforce their beliefs on those stuck under their rule. The Taliban is still actively trying (often succeeding) to retake Afghanistan, while IS also works within the country. Control in Libya is a mess, some of which is under IS control (9). Syria is in the middle of a civil war that we have funded opposing sides (10) and IS has been involved in. We have managed to capture or kill many leaders and fighters of the different Islamist factions, but overall they are more powerful now than before 9/11/01.

Back to the original question of “Who is winning the War on Terror?” I would say that 3 groups of people are winning and none of them are the American people as a whole. The first group winning from the War on Terror are big government politicians who want more control over the American people. The second group are defense contractors who make fortunes off of an endless, borderless war. The third group of people winning the War on Terror, it seems to be the terrorists themselves. Not only in gaining territory, but also in the erosion of the very freedoms we claim to be fighting to defend. The Constitution is the document that outlines the formation of our government, but in the fight to defend it we seem to have destroyed it ourselves.

The American people are the single biggest losers of the War on Terror and on this anniversary of the attacks that started it all, I hope we can begin to reclaim our losses. We need to take a stand for our civil liberties. We need to call for a withdrawal of U.S. intervention overseas where there is no plan for success and no Declaration of War has been issued. We need to demand an end to the Federal and State reckless spending. In essence we need to embrace the Liberty that is the basis of our great nation.

  1. http://www.secbrief.org/2014/04/definition-of-terrorism/
  2. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/u-s-bombed-iraq-syria-pakistan-afghanistan-libya-yemen-somalia-n704636
  3. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-memorial-day-20170529-htmlstory.html
  4. https://www.thebalance.com/war-on-terror-facts-costs-timeline-3306300
  5. http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/22/politics/patriot-act-debate-explainer-nsa/index.html
  6. http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/243850-obama-signs-nsa-bill-renewing-patriot-act-powers
  7. https://www.aclu.org/news/president-obama-signs-indefinite-detention-bill-law
  8. https://theintercept.com/2017/01/30/obama-killed-a-16-year-old-american-in-yemen-trump-just-killed-his-8-year-old-sister/
  9. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2017/03/libya-controls-170321125820367.html
  10. http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-cia-pentagon-isis-20160327-story.html
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Liberty, Politics, Uncategorized

Hope for the Future

Hope speech

 

Comic books have always been a way to tackle social issues in an entertaining way. One of the most famous versions of this is the X-Men. While the struggle from the comics is one between mutants and humans, it is easy to see the connection between the mutant struggle and prejudices in the real world. As with most movements, there are different sects within the larger group. In the Marvel Universe, those sects historically were the violent Brotherhood led by Magneto and the more peaceful mutants the X-Men led by Professor Xavier.

 

In this excerpt, the new mutant, Hope Summers, is meeting Magneto and Professor Xavier for the first time and she isn’t happy to hear how they are discussing the state of the mutant struggle. The conversation takes on a competitive connotation that creates a barrier between the two sides. Hope recognizes that this type of language will only ensure that the humans and the mutants remain at odds even when they say their purpose is equality.

 

The same is often the case in today’s political dialogue. People have chosen their side and instead of talking about solutions and goals, we discuss beating the opposition. We round up people in our minds into certain groups and brand them with the assumptions we have about that group. At that point, what is the point of talking to each other? We already think we know everything about what that person thinks because we have them lumped into their group.

 

This is a problem with three roots. The first is our natural tendencies. Our brains take shortcuts often without our realizing it. To demonstrate this, often times people will overlook misspelled words or think something was in its rightful place when it wasn’t because our brain filled it in. This can happen in our interactions with each other as well. We meet someone and immediately make assumption about them based on any number of criteria (1). The second root is our culture and experiences. This is closely related to the first root, but can often compound the problem. The third root is propaganda. In today’s political climate I believe this is one of the biggest problems we have to overcome. When people consume massive amounts of hateful and divisive content it just piles on the walls separating us from each other. That divide is by design of those spreading the content. It is how they make a profit.

 

Now the danger in realizing this is to swing too far in the opposite direction and not stand for anything. Apathy is a whole problem within itself, but it is not a solution to prejudice.

 

What we can do instead is train ourselves to recognize our prejudices and try to focus on the conversation at hand. If you are talking to a Trump supporter and categorize that person as an alt-right neo-nazi you may miss what that person is actually saying. Listen to the concerns of others and then seek solutions together. This is not to say that we will always get along or agree, but for the most part we all want to see the United States of America and it’s people succeed. We can also make a conscious effort to not partake in inflammatory rhetoric. Maybe don’t click that link with the headline talking about “Crushing” the opposition or maybe don’t share or even “like” that meme that exposes the “stupidity” of someone who believes different than you.  It is up to us to change the political climate to one of working together rather than tearing each other apart.

  1. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/research-states-that-prejudice-comes-from-a-basic-human-need-and-way-of-thinking.html#.WFDetX0VJUc
Liberty, Uncategorized

This isn’t freedom, this is fear.

The movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of my favorite movies. In the movie, we see the secret spy agency, SHIELD has been infiltrated by agents of HYDRA, the Nazi supernatural branch that was thought ended with the death of the Red Skull. Not only has HYDRA been discovered in SHIELD, but SHIELD is on the brink of launching a fleet of Helicarriers that are programmed to neutralize threats before they happen anywhere in the world. When Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD, shows Captain America (Steve Rogers) what they are planning, Cap is less than thrilled. What follows is a very brief, but deep conversation about the limits of security.

  • Nick Fury: These new long range precision guns can eliminate a thousand hostiles a minute. The satellites can read a terrorist’s DNA before he steps outside his spider hole. We gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.
  • Steve Rogers: I thought the punishment usually came after the crime.
  • Nick Fury: We can’t afford to wait that long.
  • Steve Rogers: Who’s “we”?
  • Nick Fury: After New York, I convinced the World Security Council we needed a quantum surge in threat analysis. For once we’re way ahead of the curve.
  • Steve Rogers: By holding a gun at everyone on Earth and calling it protection.
  • Nick Fury: You know, I read those SSR files. Greatest generation? You guys did some nasty stuff.
  • Steve Rogers: Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so the people could be free. This isn’t freedom, this is fear.

The World Security Council decided they needed absolute power to keep people safe. They believed they were the good guys and so it was okay to take this step in eliminating threats before a crime happened with no consideration for rights and civil liberties.

Later on in the movie, Cap and Black Widow find themselves in an abandoned base where they meet the computer version of Dr. Zola, a HYDRA scientist from WWII. In an effort to keep them occupied while an airstrike is on its way, Zola explains the connection between SHIELD and HYDRA.

  • Dr. Arnim Zola: HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom. What we did not realize, was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly. After the war, SHIELD was founded and I was recruited. The new HYDRA grew. A beautiful parasite inside SHIELD. For seventy years HYDRA has been secretly feeding crisis, reaping war. And when history did not cooperate, history was changed.
  • Natasha Romanoff: That’s impossible, SHIELD would have stopped you.
  • Dr. Arnim Zola: Accidents will happen. HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security. Once the purification process is complete, HYDRA’s new world order will arise. We won, Captain. Your death amounts to the same as your Life; a zero sum.

There is a lot to unpack in Dr. Zola’s statements, so I am just going to start from the beginning.

“HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom.” Sounds a lot like every argument for big government ever. Whether it be the drug war, gun control, or even education. It all boils down to a belief that individuals will make bad decisions and need to be kept in line.

“What we did not realize, was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.”

This statement reminds me of the illustration of boiling a frog. Throw a frog in hot water and it will jump out, but slowly turn up the heat over time and it will stay in the water and die. We have accepted an erosion of our freedoms over time, usually in response to a tragedy. Economic freedoms were sacrificed in response to the Great Depression. Gun rights were sacrificed in response to the Valentine’s Day Massacre. Congressional declaration of war was sacrificed in response to the Cold War. Privacy rights were sacrificed in response to 9/11.

“HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security.”

I don’t believe that the state of the world is the way it is because of some secretive evil organization making calculated decisions about how to get people to give up their freedoms. An organization like that doesn’t need to exist for that outcome. Authoritarianism is as old as humanity. It is the default of civilizations. Freedom is a relatively new concept, but it has catapulted humanity into an age of unparalleled growth. Like anything worthwhile, freedom requires effort to be maintained.

In his podcast, Common Sense, Dan Carlin often asks what will happen after the next big terrorist attack in the U.S.? What rights are left to surrender? What price will people be willing to pay for that promise of freedom? Will we accept outlawing Islam? Will we accept arresting people without a trial (already authorized in the NDAA)? Maybe we will accept rounding up people of a certain background like we did with the Japanese-Americans in WWII?

The purpose of securing our rights in the Bill of Rights was so that emotion and mob rule didn’t infringe on people’s rights when a spirit of authoritarianism swept through the people. Unfortunately, those very rights have been chipped away at for 200+ years and authoritarianism is once again taking hold. It is time to take a stand for freedom. To reclaim our individual rights. Dedicate ourselves to the principles of Liberty even when we are scared or suffering. In the words of Captain America:

“… the price of freedom is high, it always has been, and it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.”

Liberty, Uncategorized

Focus on the Horcruxes

Voldemort is the villain of the Harry Potter books and movies. At the beginning of the first book, Voldemort is thought to be dead. You then find out a part of him clung to life in Professor Quirrell. Then another part of him popped up in the Diary from Chamber of Secrets. Then he is full blown brought back to life in the Goblet of Fire. They just can’t seem to get rid of him until finally Dumbledore discovers the secret. Voldemort split his soul into 7 pieces stored in what is called Horcruxes. These vessels were then hidden and protected to keep Voldemort alive. The key to defeating Voldemort was to not attack Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters but to rather attack the source of the problem. Voldemort and the Death Eaters were the symptom of the greater problem of the Horcruxes.

The same applies to many of our real world problems today. So much of what people and the news are concerned about is only symptoms of often common sources. We can attack the symptoms for decades (as we have) and find ourselves either in the same situation or often in a worse situation. If we want to truly solve the problems of the United States, we need to take a step back as a nation and separate the symptoms from the core problems.

One very clear example of this is college tuition and debt. For decades, the cost of tuition has kept rising faster than most other costs in the U.S. (1. “The average annual increase in college tuition from 1980-2014 grew by nearly 260% compared to the nearly 120% increase in all consumer items.”) The government has tried to solve this problem by throwing more and more money at the problem (grants) and by making it easier for students to get loans to afford school (2. History of Financial Aid). As the ability for students to pay more rose, so did the cost of tuition. Instead of attacking the Horcrux (price inflation from government subsidies and bad loans) the U.S. keeps trying to fix symptoms without addressing the real problem.

Our out of control college tuition and debt is only 1 example of symptoms being mistaken for the problem. The rise of Donald Trump, overcrowded prison systems, much of the nations poverty, etc. are all symptoms of deeper less obvious problems. Until the American public demands that politicians destroy the Horcruxes plaguing our nation, rather than fighting skirmishes with the Death Eaters, our nation will not be great. As it is now, the illusion of doing something while the source persists is what gets politicians re-elected. Americans need to demand meaningful results for re-election, not political theater and pandering.

tuition cost 64-15 (3)

  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/this-chart-shows-how-quickly-college-tuition-has-skyrocketed-since-1980-2015-7
  2. http://www.finaid.org/educators/history.phtml
  3. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76
Liberty, Uncategorized

Response to For all of you who aren’t sure…

Hope speech

  • For all of you who aren’t sure, it is possible to be gay and Christian.

While it is possible to be gay and a christian, it is not possible to be a follower of Christ while engaging in a homosexual lifestyle. (I can discuss further with anyone who has questions about this)

  • It’s also possible to believe in God and science.

Agreed.

  • It is possible to be pro-choice and anti-abortion.

It is still advocating for the ability to legally kill another human even if you yourself wouldn’t pull the trigger.

  • It is equally possible to be a feminist and love and respect men.

Totally, the problem is the movement has been hijacked by people who want to put men down. That is the problem with movements that focus on rights for a certain group. If you have a human rights movement, it is inclusive and no one gets put above another under the guise of equality.

  • It’s possible to have privilege and be discriminated against, to be poor and have a rich life, to not have a job and still have money.

Agreed, so don’t make assumptions about another persons history.

  • It is possible to believe in sensible gun control legislation and still believe in one’s right to defend one’s self, family, and property, it’s possible to be anti-war and pro-military.

Sensible” is the problem. The system we have now is sensible. Most proposals beyond what we have now would not stop the attacks people are reacting to. People just want “something” done. The war/military part I agree with. There is just an overcompensation after people realized how terrible Vietnam vets were treated.

  • It is possible to love thy neighbor and despise his actions.

Totally agree.

  • It is possible to advocate Black Lives Matter and still be pro police.

Once again, this is an issue of a push for equal rights being hijacked by the extremes. It is also a prime example of a symptom being addressed instead of the root, the Drug War.

  • It is possible to not have an education and be brilliant.

Academia is a scam that has the world fooled.

  • It is possible to be Muslim and also suffer at the hands of terrorists.

Pretty sure the majority of victims of terrorism are Muslim.

  • It is possible to be a non-American fighting for the American dream.

While I agree, it should be pointed out that the American dream should be simply to be free. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with being in the borders of America other than historically America was the test for freedom. I want to see people fight for freedom all around the globe and I will fight to bring it back to America, better than before (I recognize it was never perfect).

  • It is possible to be different and the same.

We are all humans with the same rights regardless of any group we may belong to. That is why I don’t like separating the fight for rights into interest groups.

We are all walking contradictions of what “normal” looks like. Let humanity and love win.

Liberty, Uncategorized

Arrow vs. Bullets

The show Arrow follows the vigilante exploits of Oliver Queen. The show has done a good job of showing his character’s growth over the years. In the first season, Oliver is “rescued” from an island after 5 years. He returns home and begins a quest to kill a group of bad people who were planning an attack on a low income area of the city with the intent to rebuild it for their own profit. Like many comic book heroes, by the second season he  swears not to kill anymore. The show is now on its fifth season and he has evolved into trying not to kill, but situation dictates.

The latest episode is called “Spectre of the Gun”. Oliver is now Mayor of Star City during the day and Green Arrow by night. In this episode, a man walks into City Hall and shoots the place up killing 7 people. Then the man gets away, but leaves behind one of his weapons. Instead of the gun ending up at the police department, naturally it ends up in the Arrow base to be examined. During this examination, Team Arrow starts to break up into “gun rights” and “gun control” groups. While discussing how to find the perpetrator, they mention that AR-15s can be bought anywhere and they are the most popular gun in America. That is true. The problem is, the rifle used in the shooting was an automatic rifle. The National Firearms Act  of 1934, severely restricts the ownership of any automatic weapon with high taxes and registration of those firearms. So the rifle the shooter used was NOT the type of  AR-15 you can buy at your local gun shop and if it had been purchased legally, it would have been registered.

During the shooting, the team member Wild Dog, pulled his own pistol and shot the gunman, but the gunman was wearing body armor. It is later brought up that Wild Dog was Dishonorably Discharged from the military and therefore could not legally buy a gun. He points out that he is still able to get one. Later in the episode it is revealed that the gunman lost his family to a mall shooter after the city council refused to pass a gun registration act. It is also revealed that the mall shooter obtained his weapons illegally and a registration would have done nothing to prevent the mall attack. I appreciate the show adding that information to the story. That was a common miscommunication between people after Newtown. He killed his own mother and stole the guns he used. No registration could prevent that. I also want to point out that the whole premise of the show is civilians illegally using weapons. If anyone should understand the futility of trying to use laws to prevent crime it should be this group of people, but some of them are missing that point.

Overall I thought the episode did a fairly decent job of covering both sides of the debate. I also appreciated the theme of not shying away from heated discussions to find answers. In the episode, they end with a “compromise” that doesn’t violate people’s rights and makes people safer. Conveniently, they don’t say what that compromise entails.

One of the issues with the gun debate is that the 2 sides are talking about different things. Gun control people see violence and want it to be stopped or at least reduced. They see statistics and body counts and news articles about how people seem to be getting mowed down by guns left and right. Restrictions seem like a common sense solution. On the other hand, gun rights people will never be persuaded by any of those things, because they are talking about rights and principles. To them, restricting guns because of how bad people use them is equivalent to restricting the rights of Japanese-Americans because of Pearl Harbor. They don’t want to be punished for another person’s actions. This disconnect guarantees that the discussion will continue for a long time. Unlike the show, we can’t just pretend a compromise exists.

I will always choose to protect people’s rights. That doesn’t mean I am not open to discussion, but know that in order to change my mind, you must convince me that people do not have a right to self-defense from both criminals and tyranny.

Liberty

The Government is not Goku

In the popular anime series, Dragonball Z, the hero Goku is often all that stands between super powered aliens and the Earth. He is a pure hearted hero who has dedicated his life to the study of martial arts and in doing so became arguably the strongest man alive. One of his more powerful fighting techniques is called the Spirit Bomb. To use this technique, he siphons a portion of the life force from the planet and all the living things on it creating a giant ball of energy he then pummels his foe with.

In the real world, there are many people who will try to scare you into compliance on any number of issues. From militant Islam to Carbon Dioxide in the air, ask anyone and they have a theory about how everything you value is about to be destroyed. Of course this can be avoided by simply sacrificing some of your life force to the hero, the State. If everyone sacrifices some privacy, the State will keep us safe. If everyone sacrifices some of their income, the State can abolish poverty. If everyone sacrifices burning fossil fuels, the State can stop the climate from changing. Just give and give and give to the hero and everything will be fine. The problem is we think we are giving our life force to Goku, the altruistic hero, but in reality we are often only contributing to the problem or creating a new one.

There is no one hero to solve our problems. By trying to create one, we create a worse enemy than the one we started out against. Prohibition created Al Capone. Intervention in the Middle East created ISIS. The War on Drugs empowers the Drug Cartels. The minimum wage negatively affects minorities, the very people it was supposed to help.

We do need to share our energy in order to battle all of these monsters. But not with one all powerful State. The solution is in individuals working together through voluntary interactions. In the show, Goku asks for the energies he collects for his Spirit Bomb. It is time we stop looking to the State to save us by forcefully taking our money and rights. We need to take back our energies and use it to work together for good.