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?

Advertisements
Libertarian Philosophy Values Human Rights, However…

Occupy Marin, in Their Own Words (Audio Interviews)

I went to the Occupy Marin demonstration today (October 15, 2011), near downtown San Rafael, and conducted five interviews with five demonstrators, took some pictures, and took some notes. This will be part one of two on the demonstration. Part two will be me sharing notes, images, and observations made at the demonstration. No single interview or interviewee can be said to be representative of the whole, as all five are very different. I encourage you to listen to all five before drawing any conclusions.

As with everything I publish on this blog, you are free more-or-less to do what you wish with these sound clips. I have absolutely no training as a journalist, nor any experience conducting interviews, so I ask that the listener please forgive my lack of refinement in the art of conducting an interview.

I didn’t see any evidence of any bay area news agencies documenting the demonstration, and I’m not sure why. The three-second sound bytes they generally give members of the general public are usually not of very much value anyways. The interviews below are all about five minutes long. If you click the link, it should start playing. If you right click on one of the links and click on “save as”, you can download the interview.

First Interview – Concerned about debt and the rights of the elderly, and feels that Herman Cain (R) represents him well.

Second Interview – The person interviewed was Norman Solomon (D), currently running for Congress.

Third Interview – Concerned that his fellow young people aren’t involved in politics enough, and feels that former Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo Patrice Lamumba represents him well.

Fourth Interview – Doesn’t like US Troops being present in other countries, and feels that Dennis Kucinich (D) represents her well.

Fifth Interview – Concerned about party-line voting trumping the national interest in Congress.

Someone else posted a video of the demonstration from across the street on youtube, if you’d like to get an idea of the atmosphere from a distance.

Occupy Marin, in Their Own Words (Audio Interviews)

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”

Civil Rights in the 21st Century, and a Brave Citizen

To summarize that 14 minute video, Michael Allison of Illinois has been charged with “eavesdropping” for publicly recording the actions of Law Officers in the execution of their duties, and now faces 75 years in prison. He has refused a plea deal, and seems to be attempting to force this issue to go either before the supreme court of Illinois where the relevant laws will hopefully be shot down, or to the US Supreme Court where identical laws across our nation (including in California) would all be shot down. We need more patriots like this man – most people would simply take the plea deal (probation and no jail time) knowing that the result would be future citizens facing a situation similar to his in the future. Since about 1954, the US Supreme court has been the most often used policy-level venue to address Civil Rights issues, but Amending the US Constitution remains a valid fall-back.

Click here to find out if your State, like California and Illinois, is one of the Dirty Dozen.

In this event that this isn’t settled in the courts within the next decade or so, me and a friend have drafted a very rough proposed Amendment to the US Constitution that would directly address this. Version “B” of our draft reads as follows:

Amendment Regarding the Use of Privately Owned Recording Devices

Section 1. Nothing in this amendment shall be interpreted as applying to recording devices owned by Federal, State, or Local governments or as applying to officials thereof using recording devices while acting in any official capacity.

Section 2. In all public areas of the United States inside the various states and territories thereof, Federal, State, and Local government officials being recorded in the execution of their duties on public lands such as parks and roads need not be informed nor provide consent for their actions to be legally recorded. On private property, existing Federal, State, and Local laws shall continue to be in effect.

Section 3. When such recording is occurring using a mobile device, the private individual must make reasonable efforts to maintain at least 20 feet of distance from the official.

Section 4. In any case wherein such recording devices are searched or seized, any and all recordings that include Federal, State, or Local government officials executing their duties shall be held for a period of not less than 10 years in an unmodified state. Copies must be entered into the public record in an unmodified state except where such modifications are permitted in section 5, and in such a way that the general public can readily access them, unless the recording would prejudice an ongoing criminal investigation.

Section 5. The faces, voices, and unique identifying marks of private persons may obfuscated only to the extent necessary to prevent recognition of specific persons in any of the following cases:

a) If requested by the person in question or legal representatives of such person.
b) If done by a State or locally established and legally empowered privacy committee.
c) As required by State law or Local government ordinance.

In addition, the obfuscation must be removed if requested by the person or legal representatives of such persons.

Section 6. Section 5 obfuscation is to be done at the expense of States or Local governances that have or wish to enact such laws. The extent of Section 5 obfuscation is to be determined by the locality in which the recording was made, not by the jurisdiction of the official that seized the material.

Section 7. Local jurisdictions are to create and maintain websites to facilitate this, and such websites shall not record any data regarding persons accessing said website.

Slowly, a few judges seem to be concluding that the existing US Bill of Rights covers most of the above and are nullifying existing laws as unconstitutional. To read about that angle being taken, click here.

Civil Rights in the 21st Century, and a Brave Citizen

Comic-o-Matic – Easily Generate Quick 3-panel Comics

UPDATE: I made a website to support and encourage the use of Comic-O-Matic. Check it out, and participate!

Original Post Follows:

Nina Paley is the amazing artist behind the film Sita Sings the Blues that you are encouraged to watch or download for free. Pairing some of her artwork with some clever coding by Margo Burns, and we have the Comic-O-Matic, a phenomenally easy to use toy (or tool, depending on your perspective) that allows for the quick and easy generation of 3-panel 2-character comics.

Here is my first comic created using the Comic-O-Matic, a very simple response to the recent idiotic rioting in the otherwise fine and proud city of Vancouver.

(Click for full size)
Cat says with sad face: Boston won! This is Bullshit! Alien says with stubborn face: Ya, it kind of sucks. So close. =( Cat says with sneaky happy face: What can we do about it? Alien says with happy cheerful face: Lets destroy Boston! That'll show those yank fuckers. Cat says with eyebrow raised: Dude, I don't have that kind of gas money. Alien says with crazy eyes and a smile: Fine, Vancouver it is!

I do hope those injured recover fully, and that the criminals are captured and see justice.

That is both a plug for an artist I enjoy, and all I have to say about the tragic events in Vancouver last night.

Comic-o-Matic – Easily Generate Quick 3-panel Comics

Irresponsible Journalists, meet an Inexperienced Marine

I came across this story. It’s about a young lady from Indiana named Private Kylie Furnish that recently completed Marine Corps Recruit Training and is upset that she is not being allowed to wear her Dress Blues to her High School graduation. She faces the same choice as every other student – wear the cap-and-gown, or don’t attend.

The story starts;

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A soon to be Leo High School graduate will be skipping out on her big day this weekend because she won’t be allowed to wear her Marine Corps dress blues.

Wait, why is this news again? Let’s continue reading…

…Private Kylie Furnish graduated from high school early and recently graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp. Private Furnish had hoped to walk with her class this weekend wearing her Marine Corps dress blues, which is Marine Corps policy for a ceremony like this.

Any other former Marine at this point is asking himself or herself “what?” right about now, perhaps with a confused look on his or her face. I’ll clarify that point later. But, let us read on. The School District defends its position thusly:

“The attire for all graduates of East Allen County Schools is a Cap and Gown representing the high school from which they graduate. This is a ceremony to recognize the achievements of four years of high school effort as seniors leave us and go on to many different aspects of life: work, college, military, service, homemaker, etc. Whereas we are aware there are many students who would prefer to wear their own choice of clothing at graduation to symbolize all different sorts of things, the Corporation’s policy is that participation is contingent upon the required attire of a cap and gown.

East Allen County Schools is not unlike most, if not all, schools in the state. Each year school districts are presented with requests to alter their long-standing rules and practices regarding the graduation ceremony. The courts have granted school districts the right to continue to follow these rules and practices time after time. It is always a difficult thing to turn down requests which have such emotional ties to them. However, as stated above, graduation is the time that is used to recognize the achievements of our all seniors. The Cap and Gown, most symbolically, does just that.”

Well, that certainly sounds reasonable to me – especially as the Marine Corps policy mentioned earlier does not exist. The story concludes:

Outraged at the policy, Furnish says she won’t be going.

Well, she has the right to be outraged. Just as I have the right to be outraged at the rain and I can refuse to walk outside when it rains. She recently completed a more significant graduation ceremony, anyways: from Marine Corps Recruit Training.

The Marine Corps’ general guidance is that a uniform may be worn at ceremonies such as this. “May” is the operative word. There is no requirement or policy saying that a uniform must be worn at such civilian ceremonies. In my opinion, the only possible way these two journalists could possibly have received information to the contrary is if they are willfully and negligently (perhaps maliciously) pretending that an 18 year old Marine Private as an expert on Marine Corps uniform regulations. Five seconds on Google, just five seconds of responsible journalism, would have brought them to the relevant policy in the form of a PDF that can be searched through for key words such as “uniform regulations,” as I have done below. (pages 75, and 78, emphasis mine):

DESIGNATED UNIFORMS AND OCCASIONS FOR WEAR

BLUE DRESS UNIFORMS
1. The blue dress “A” uniform may be worn for parades, ceremonies and formal or semiformal social functions… The blue dress “A” uniform will be is worn for the following official military/social occasions:

What follows is a list that includes events at the White House and the Marine Corps Ball, but not anything resembling a high school graduation. It also goes on to specify which variant of the blues can and cannot be worn on leave or liberty (ie, off work) but that isn’t relevant to us here. The words “may” and “will” for unofficial/civilian events and for official military/social events respectively are consistent, and not ambiguous. The language is exact and the document incredibly easy to find. It wasn’t rocket science for me to find that, and I’m not the one claiming to be a professional journalist.

While true that the young Marine is mistaken (if her words are indeed the source of the incorrect statement regarding the policy, and the journalists didn’t simply make it up) and perhaps also being a bit dramatic, the reporters that wrote the story are being irresponsible and sensationalist by attempting create a dramatic story when, in reality, there is no story.

Teenagers say and do silly and dramatic things for a variety of bizarre reasons, Marine or otherwise. She didn’t instantly become an expert on Marine Corps Policy by virtue of completing recruit training – she demonstrated that she understands the basics about what it is to be a Marine, and she is allowed to make a mistake here-and-there that she hopefully learns from. “Basic” training is not “Advanced Law and Policy Training”.

What she doesn’t need is to be taken advantage of by two journalists in such a way that her error will be immortalized, the way some journalists love to do with anything military. Being a Marine Private does not entitle her to speak for the entire US Marine Corps, and the journalists know that. If they hadn’t built a story around such an easily discovered misunderstanding, I wouldn’t be complaining. But, they did. So, I am.

I’m making a story out of a non-story by publishing my response. The story is simply that two journalists (presumably college educated and experienced in the field of journalism?) ought to know better and be capable of very basic fact checking. There, now your error is also immortalized Scott Sarvay and Krystal Shull.

Irresponsible Journalists, meet an Inexperienced Marine

Summary & Opinion on the “Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy”

Rumor has it that one is supposed to introduce a source prior to citing it. So, here we go (emphasis on prestigious titles is mine):

Commissioners:

  • Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan
  • Carlos Fuentes, writer and public intellectual, Mexico
  • César Gaviria, former President of Colombia
  • Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico
  • Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico
  • Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair)
  • George Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece
  • George P. Shultz, former United States Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)
  • Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain
  • John Whitehead, banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, United States
  • Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana
  • Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, President of the International Crisis Group, Canada
  • Maria Cattaui, Petroplus Holdings Board member, former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland
  • Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru
  • Marion Caspers-Merk, former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health
  • Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, France
  • Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board
  • Richard Branson, entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, co-founder of The Elders, United Kingdom
  • Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs
  • Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

I think we will all agree that this is a pretty impressive list of folks. Here is my bullet-pointed summary (mostly copy/pasted topic sentences, but sometimes paraphrased) of what they advocate in their Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (English and Spanish version available). Text in (parenthesis) is my occasional commentary.

  1. End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
  2. Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens. This recommendation applies especially to cannabis. (Some call it insanity to continue to carry out a slightly different variant of the exact same approach, and to nonetheless expect vastly different outcomes. That describes the current US “War on Drugs”, in a nutshell.)
  3. Offer health and treatment services to those in need. (YA THINK?)
  4. Abolish abusive practices carried out in the name of treatment – such as forced detention, forced labor, and physical or psychological abuse.
  5. Apply much the same principles and policies stated above to people involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets, such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers. (Folks gotta earn a buck to feed their families. These people should be regarded as blue-collar unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, not as evil criminal masterminds.)
  6. Invest in activities that can both prevent young people from taking drugs in the first place and also prevent those who do use drugs from developing more serious problems. (That approach is working wonders with cigarette use, no?)
  7. Avoid simplistic ‘just say no’ messages and ‘zero tolerance’ policies in favor of educational efforts grounded in credible information and prevention programs that focus on social skills and peer influences. (Similar to what most rational people advocate for sex education.)
  8. Focus repressive actions on violent criminal organizations, but do so in ways that undermine their power and reach while prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation. (People already engaged in illegal businesses are more likely to use violence than established businessmen. Once the business in question is no longer illegal, how well do you think these violent criminals will fare when their business competition is a bunch of Fortune 500 CEOs who, whatever their other flaws, generally do not hire assassins? People are going to continue to get wealthy in the drug trade, regardless of any policy. Who would you rather see get wealthy – violent criminals, or legitimate businessmen? Pick one, because “neither” is not a realistic option, nor viable.)
  9. Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime. Base policy on the scientific method and on the scientific principals used by social scientists and medical practitioners, not on political convenience commonly used by politicians. (That second sentence was a heavy paraphrasing of what I suspect the commissioners would have wanted to say.)

Well, there it is and there is my commentary on the subject. But what does the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) have to say about the subject?

Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Making drugs more available — as this report suggests — will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe.

Someone should point the ONDCP to point 2, above. That “stay the course” argument made by the ONDCP may have been a credible argument in 1995, but it’s a complete joke and lacking all credibility in 2011 unless you measure the success of the War on Drugs purely by using the famed “body count” model that characterized “stay the course” arguments during the Vietnam War,  replacing dead bodies as the measure of success with incarcerated people as the measure of success. The United States does have the largest per-capita prisoner ratio in the world, after all, even higher than places such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Belarus, and any other country or so-called “Police State” that you’ve ever heard is a “human rights concern.” Yay for the War on Drugs?

I think not.

The entire industrialized world – including a minority within the United States –  and many leaders of the developing world know exactly what the problem is and how it can be fixed. For these solutions to work, though, the largest economy in the world needs to get on board. Spain, Brazil, Columbia, and Germany can do what they wish, but so long as there is a strong demand for illicit drugs in the wealthiest nation on the planet, a supply will be furnished and all of humanity will suffer as a result.

We know what the current Civil War in Northern Mexico is about, right? I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t about Mexicans that want to use drugs…

Wake up, President Obama (D) and United States Congress (R). This Report with those prestigious signatures attached is your call to action. You cannot play dumb any longer, nor – given that list of signatures – can you continue to use ad hominem attacks to characterize those advocating policies such as those above as the advice of a foolish, uneducated, and inexperienced minority.

Summary & Opinion on the “Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy”