Libertarian Philosophy Values Human Rights, However…

The Libertarian political philosophy does value human rights, this is true. The most commonly cited Human Rights are the Traditional Rights of Englishmen that our Founding Fathers were raised to believe they had, but didn’t have: Life, Liberty, and Estate. The alleged abridgment of these rights is the moral authority on which the birth of our country rests.

How would one interpret a modern and reasonable meaning of these rights, henceforth called the Unalienable Rights of American Citizens, in the 21st century? Could it provide for us a reasonable yardstick to measure the progress of our elected representatives today? Even in the 21st century? Maybe. Let’s give it a shot. I submit the following:

Life. That would mean, for example, moving closer to Single-Payer Health Care (SPHC) for all citizens. The Edmund Burke conservative approach would obviously be to gradually expand Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration to encompass and provide care for all citizens, and then combine them all into a Citizens National Healthcare Administration while leaving citizens free to elect for care from the private sector if they so choose.

Liberty. That would mean, for example, moving closer to allowing and recognizing unfettered marriage rights amongst consenting adults. It is not the State’s place to decide which relationships between adult consenting humans are and are not valid. If such recognition is to be granted at all, it must be granted to all.

Estate. For example we must move closer to a society that does not allow citizens to go without and die starving in the gutter. Mr. Jefferson advocated that we American Citizens seize land from Native Americans (only marginally human and savages, in his view, who lived in that very State of Nature that Locke mentions frequently, and who were certainly not American Citizens for whom these Unalienable Rights ought to apply) and give those lands to American Citizens so that they’d all have a stake in society and wish for its prosperity. Alas, the Native Americans have no good land left to seize, and so we must seek other solutions.

Let us ponder what the group of men we saw ushered into congressional office in 2010 under the auspices of the so-called “Libertarian” Tea Party (never-mind for the moment that the original Boston Tea Party was in response to lowered taxes and corporate welfare that both hurt the middle class, and not higher taxes as is so often claimed), and traditional conservative Republicans trying to get “Tea Party Street Cred” have demonstrated to us since:

Life. They’ve opposed anything resembling SPHC, even going so far as to oppose the ridiculous compromise that was brokered to have an “individual mandate” requiring that citizens must purchase health insurance from a private firm without any meaningful egalitarian public option offered. The necessary and proper thing to do for our country is to demand that there be a overarching public option for health care to move us closer to SPHC and correct this fault in the foundation, not argue for destroying the whole building.

Liberty. Under the guise of a thinly veiled claim that amounts to “States have the right to violate the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution,” Liberty is generally opposed. That veil is very thin and transparent indeed, in light of the following two facts and resultant conclusion posed as a rhetorical question. Fact one would be that society generally acknowledges that no one chooses to be gay, and that gay men and women cannot “pray the gay away.” Fact two, with that in mind, is that Loving v. Virginia happened. If States cannot ban heteroracial marriages, what gives them the constitutional authority to ban or fail to recognize homosexual marriages?

Estate. Unlike the Boston Tea Party radicals they claim to be named for, our “Libertarian” Tea Party friends argue for even lower taxes for the very wealthy, even as we know that this harms the middle class. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Locke agree that voting citizens must have a meaningful material stake in society. Acknowledging that there are not still fertile lands (and this is true, the reservations aren’t exactly prime fertile soil) presently under the ownership of those few remaining Native Americans, who can we seize from? And if such seizures are to be equated with “theft,” a notion I very much disagree with, then please do recall that the thing to do when you identify stolen property is to return said property. One cannot have it both ways at once. Some may claim that taxation is “theft,” but if one chooses to do so then one must also return the stolen real estate they own or reside upon to its rightful owner or owners (Native Americans still had the Commons in place when we Europeans all showed up, so collective ownership would be appropriate if they wish for it) in order to avoid rank hypocrisy and have the “taxation is theft, and I’m opposed to thievery” claim have any credence whatsoever.

And thus, we see the vast difference between what so-called Libertarians claim their principles are, and the policies they advocate once elected. As John Locke said:

Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.

November approaches. How will you vote in 2012?

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Libertarian Philosophy Values Human Rights, However…

Responce to Ron Paul’s “A Dangerous Precedent”

A friend pointed me to an article by Sen. Ron Paul published by antiwar.com wherein Senator Paul was scathingly critical of the assassination of US Citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. I invite you to read Senator Paul’s article in its entirety, here. Few doubt the guilt of al-Awlaki in actively recruiting American and EU citizens to become murderers of their fellow citizens and offering tactical and operational guidance to those interested,  but if you do have doubt then I invite you to read his own words on page eleven of Al Qaeda’s English-language magazine – a direct download of the fifth issue of this Al Qaeda publication (it styles itself as a magazine like People or Vogue) in PDF format is here here. If he were an American military officer, his rank and position could be summarized as Commanding General, English Language Recruitment and Training Command.

I will assume from this point that you’ve read some of what Senator Paul has to say about al-Awlaki, and what al-Awlaki had to say for himself. The only debate at this point pertains to al-Awlaki’s fifth amendment right to due process. Things in quotes are Senator Paul, followed by my response to them.

Many cheer this killing because they believe that in a time of war, due process is not necessary — not even for citizens, and especially not for those overseas. However, there has been no formal declaration of war and certainly not one against Yemen.

For better or worse, we’ve abolished the concept of declaring war as a country. And I believe Americans in general, for whatever reasons, support this decision. When Senator Paul put forth a Declaration of War against Iraq in 2002, few Americans stood up in support of it and most supporters of the invasion of Iraq seemed OK with the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq instead. In 1998 Al Qaeda declared war against the United States, and on September 14, 2001, the United States Congress returned the favor. A state of war has existed between Al Qaeda and the United States since then.

The United States Congress authorizing the President to use force is the modern equivalent of declaring war, and Ron Paul should stop pretending it is 1941.

Awlaki’s father tried desperately to get the administration to at least allow his son to have legal representation to challenge the “kill” order. He was denied. Rather than give him his day in court, the administration, behind closed doors, served as prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.

A metaphor no combat veteran is likely to ever make.

All combatants serve as judge, jury, and executioner. Is President Obama not the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces at present, ultimately the General of Generals? Is a General not a combatant, even if he holds no rifle and flies no jet and merely has a “radio man” at his disposal?

Al-Awlaki is not merely accused of being a leader in Al Qaeda. He self-professed as being a leader in Al Qaeda while residing amongst and amidst Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula.

Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) wasn’t always called AQAP, its leaders chose to rename the organization willingly. Furthermore, al-Awlaki wasn’t always AQ, he chose to join and proclaimed his allegiance loudly and publicly.

I will leave you with this question: Imagine an American rifleman fighting at the Battle of the Bulge who spots what appears to be a German General standing amidst a German Command and Control center from two hundred yards away. Do you expect that rifleman to approach and ask the apparent German General (self-identifying as such by virtue of wearing that uniform at that location) if he is indeed a German General, or do you expect him to take the shot immediately?

Responce to Ron Paul’s “A Dangerous Precedent”

SS Jeremiah O’Brien Ghost Fleet Cruise, sighting of USS Iowa (BB-61)


(Image Credit: From here)

I visited the operational World War II Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien (official website) for a day-cruise yesterday and had a phenomenal time. Lunch was decent, seating adequate, nautical tour guide over the PA system phenomenal, and the water, soda, and popcorn were free. I took many many pictures of the O’Brien, the USS Iowa, and the rest of the mothball fleet that we have here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My personal favorite pictures are of the majestic USS Iowa, but for other pictures that I took you should check out the following articles:

At some point, I will upload all of the pictures to see and perhaps create a photo-essay. If anyone is interested in seeing the Ghost Fleet for themselves, it is located here next to the Benecia-Martinez bridge and accessible to anyone capable of driving and swimming or of putting a boat in the water and navigating it using a cell phone GPS.

Many of the pictures, like the one immediately below, have black areas around the edges. That is because I achieved 24x zoom by placing my cheap 3x zoom digital camera up against a pair of cheap 8x zoom binoculars. Incidentally, a more precise version of that is how microscopes work: if you line a 10x zoom lens with another 10x zoom lens, you are now at 100x zoom.


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I also got many close-up images, including this one which I thought would be kind of funny to put on the Wikipedia page for port-a-pottys:


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When I was contributing the below image to Wikipedia, I noticed that the SS Mount Washington was not listed as being part of the mothball fleet and corrected the article based on the name clearly visible on the ship below.


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As we pulled back into port, we saw what I am fairly certain is the Chilean Navy training ship Esmeralda pulling out of port. If that is indeed the ship pictured, it is a fairly unique in being a steel-hulled sailing ship that was built to be military in nature. When navies started putting steel on the hulls of ships, they generally started removing the sails. It was also, allegedly, a floating torture center for political prisoners in the 1970s.


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SS Jeremiah O’Brien Ghost Fleet Cruise, sighting of USS Iowa (BB-61)

What is the Force Structure breakdown for the US Marine Corps’ ground forces?

Someone asked the following question:

What is the Force Structure breakdown for the USMC?
How are troops and weapons broken down into organized units in the US Marine Corps? i.e. squads, platoons, armies… Also, what rank officer would usually be in charge of these units?
Administratively,
3 Active Marine Air Wings.
3 Active Marine Divisions.Parenthesis indicates who is supposed to command such a unit on paper, but in reality they are often one or in the case of squads and fireteams, two, ranks below that. For specialized heavy weapons units, one rank above what I list is sometimes the norm (Weapons platoons are commanded by 1st Lieutenants, for example).

Divisions (2 star general) are composed of regiments.
Regiments (Colonel) are composed of battalions.
Battalions (Lt. Colonel) are composed of companies.
Companies (Captain) are composed of platoons.
Platoons (2nd Lieutenant) are composed of squads.
Squads (Sergeant) are composed of fire teams.
Fire teams (Corporal) are composed of Marines.

The generalization for how many of each form one higher unit is called the “Rule of Three” and can be approximated with the statement that “three line and one specialized form one higher”. Three line companies and one weapons company form a battalion, for example, and three Marines with one fire team leader form a fire team. The three fire teams that form a squad may have a machine gun team attached when deployed. And so on. There are caveats at every level though, so that generalization is very rough and should be considered a generalization and not an exact rule.When deployed, a provisional Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is formed.

Most commonly, this is done by taking a battalion as the Ground Combat Element, augmenting it with perhaps a tank platoon, adding an Air Combat Element, a Command Element, a Logistics Element, training together for 6-18 months, and then deploying under the command of a Colonel as part of an Amphibious Ready Group commanded by a USN Captain and consisting of 2 or 3 amphibious assault ships of some variety and many more supporting ships.

For Iraq and Afghanistan rotations, the MAGTF is often built around a regiment instead of a battalion, has no ships (obviously), and may not have as much of an Air Combat Element. “Regimental Combat Team” is the term used here, very roughly equivalent to what the US Army calls a “Brigade Combat Team”.

What is the Force Structure breakdown for the US Marine Corps’ ground forces?

Give Bin Laden a Credible Muslim Funeral

This is breaking news, so I may update this post later, but initial reports are that Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces near the capital city of Pakistan.

Good, and I would like to take this opportunity to wish a Happy May Day to all of Humanity. Now, more than previously, this can be a holiday that crosses cultural, political, and religious lines.

At this point, the thing to do is identify the senior Muslim Chaplain in the United States Armed Forces and have an impeccable traditional Islamic funeral conducted… at sea.

So long as we give him the solemn funeral due to any believer of any faith, many of our Culturally Liberal allies in their 20s and 30s in places like Iran and Egypt will celebrate with us. Let us not horrify them with barbarism, and drive them away.

Once that is done, we need to prepare for attempted retaliation in the days and weeks to come. By “we,” I mean you the reader and me Chris. This monumental intercontinental and intercultural conflict is not over; OBL hasn’t been running the day-to-day of Al Qaeda for years.

Why bury him at sea and not in a grave on land? Any grave on land will be a focal point for violent protests and conflict for decades to come. If you put an iron-clad fence around it 100 meters away, then the violence will happen 100 meters away with just as much intensity. That type of focal point will almost certainly come into existence anyways, but I believe it is important for the United States not to be the ones intentionally choosing or creating such a focal point for death and violence.

EDIT: Holy crap, google is quick! I’ve never been #1 for such a non-specific google search before and it took under an hour for this blog post. 😛

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EDIT2: What the hell, Al Jazeera Live (less than 2 hours after this blog post) is now reporting that OBL will be buried at sea…

Give Bin Laden a Credible Muslim Funeral

History of UNIX User Interfaces – 1969 to 1998

I recently came across a phenomenal graphical history of UNIX user interfaces done by user “Spice Weasel” over at ubuntuforums.org, and I thought I would share it.

It includes screenshots of what the UNIX desktop looked like from the dawn of our modern operating systems in the late 60s to the turn of the millennium.

Sneak Preview:

Image of the CDE desktop from 1993. It is gray and purple colored, and pixels are clearly visible.
(Image Credit: screenshot from ubuntuforums.org)

Click here to see this wonderful piece in its entirety. Click here for the full discussion that includes it.

You will note that most of these old UNIX screenshots look much nicer than what you would find on a typical home computer of that same year. The most stunning case in point is the 1993 CDE, pictured above, as compared with the contemporary Windows 3.11 or Windows 95 that was still a few years in the future. Part of that is because these were intended for expensive and mission-critical big business uses, not for writing a letters to grandma.

The screenshots are of the following:

  • Unix in 1969. All of us Linux and Mac users are still using principles and methods that date from this period in time.
  • The great leap forward of twm in 1987. twm relied on the X Window System, from 1984. Many of us Linux and Mac users are still using X’s child, X11, on a daily basis.
  • 1989’s OpenWindows from Sun Microsystems.
  • CDE – Common Desktop Environment – in 1993.
  • FVWM-95 in 1995, a Red Hat implementation.
  • KDE in 1998.

To complete the history and fill in the last decade of UNIX user interfaces for a total of 42 years, this was me playing around with my desktop as of a few hours ago in the context of a hyper-nerdy discussion. If I weren’t lazier, there would have been a fancy icon and more imaginative text in the upper left corner.

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sexy.

History of UNIX User Interfaces – 1969 to 1998

Return of the King? Probably not.

Many lives have been lost today. Once again, no significant territory has shifted hands. Unfortunate, but this gives us a chance to review the events that led up to the current situation in Libya, and a quick run down on the geographical and political entity that is now formally termed “Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab State of the Masses” – No, I didn’t just make that name up. Colonel Gaddafi did, after deposing the King. He wasn’t happy with the King, for a few reasons.

After the Second World War, and after a few years as a protectorate of the British Crown, it was decided that a single independant nation called “Libya” should be formed of the three old Ottoman-era provinces of Cyrenaica, Fezzan, and Tripolitania. This ancient land became colonized by Greeks starting about 2,600 years ago. Their descendants, still alive and well, include Arabs, Tuareg, and people termed “Berbers“.

Falling variously from Greek to Roman hands for a time, it was eventually taken from the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire by the Arabs shortly after the advent of Islam. As the various Arab Caliphates gave way to the Ottoman Empire (that fell as a result of the First World War) the region came again under European influence.

After the Second World War, it was decided that three particular areas formerly defined as Ottoman Provinces and currently under British control ought to become a single independent nation. Elders of the area decided on a Constitutional Monarchy, and offered the crown to the leader of the Senussi movement of North Africa. He was also the Emir (or leader) of Cyrenaica. His name was Idris.

Map of the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica that form modern day Libya

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)

So, congratulations to Libya achieving independence on December 24, 1951! Constitution that guarantees political freedoms and protects ethnic minorities? Check. Monarchy with limited power that will provide long-term stability and serve as spiritual and social role models for the nation? Check. Oil, discovered in the late 1950s? Check. What could possibly go wrong?

Oil, for one. Libyan oil wealth was not distributed evenly. The Saudi model of bribing one’s population into submission and loyalty had not yet come to be…

Wait…I just had a moment of realization. I’m not a professional journalist. I don’t need to hint, so I can say it: It is entirely possible to run a nation on an oil economy the way the Mafia formerly ran Chicago or the way Putin currently runs Russia.

Except that King Idris forgot the part about handing out vast quantities of bribes. Putin’s model involves few big bribes to big business, industry, and the organs of information (media, etc), the Saudi Kingdom’s model involves millions of more modest bribes. King Idris tried to simply not bribe anyone outside of a few buddies in Benghazi and surrounding areas. Whoops.

King Idris’ attempts to create a single sense of Nationalism centered around his Crown did not materialize. The King was modestly popular in his native Cyrenaica, but not particularly popular in the two Western areas. Idris also amassed far more power to himself than the Constitution ever authorized, something that was not popular with many of his young Army officers. These young men increasingly liked the Arabist ideology of Nasserism and wanted nothing to do with Foreigners. This ideology was especially attractive to young Libyan Soldiers in the late 1960s, a time when both the British and Americans had military bases on Libyan soil.

The 1969 coup involved both large segments of the military (let by Colonel Gaddafi), and the support of much of Libya’s youth. That part should sound familiar. Within a few hours, the monarchy and constitution had been abolished, and the junta assumed powers of state.

Gaddafi and his boys initially renamed the country from the “Kingdom of Libya” to the “Arab Republic of Libya”. The word “Republic” because everyone seems to do that, and the word “Arab” because of the Nasserist ideologies emphasizing that the Arab World ought to be run by Arabs and for Arabs. Remember the part in the old constitution about protecting ethnic minorities? Yeah, Gaddafi isn’t interested. The regime’s hostility to native Libyans that are not Arabs may have played a role in certain tribes choosing to side with the current Rebellion.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope tonight’s body count in Libya is minimal. We’ll cover how we went from “Arab Republic” to “Great Socialist People’s Ridiculously Named yada-yada-yada” tomorrow.

Return of the King? Probably not.