Saturday, May 31, 2014

Will anyone run for Peace in 2016?

How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
—Bob Dylan, Blowin' in the Wind

When I was a child (in the 1960s) and realized the world was full of lies and liars, I became aware of the vast distance between the rules for goodness I was taught and what was actually going on in the world. The U.S. War against the people of Vietnam was the most glaring example, but it took me considerable time to figure that out.

Even as late as 10th grade (1969) I was conflicted as to whether the U.S. was in the right. I had heard people were against the war, but in my Marine Corps, Roman Catholic, Southern Democrat family and society, it was communists who had started the war. American soldiers were defending the freedom loving people of South Vietnam. You might believe that if you believe Jesus appointed the Bishop of Rome to be Pope and that white people are all that is good in the world. We believed American peace protesters were a bunch of communists.

Here I am, alive and bitching 50 years later. The massive genocide that was the Vietnam War has been replaced by the Bush/Obama war on terror. Some think that it is a war on radical Islam, but a quick check reveals that ultra-conservative Islam is okay if it is pro-U.S. No form of anti-U.S. Islam is okay, not even liberal or moderate. You don't have to be a terrorist. All you have to do is point out the war crimes and crimes against humanity the U.S. has committed and President Obama will put you on his kill without a trial list. You don't have to plan an attack in America or on a U.S.-allied government or local thug; all you need to commit is thought crime.

In fact, a lot of the deaths reported as victories over terrorism are what could be called "false positives." The CIA and Special Murdering Forces go out and ask around Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Libya and Mali and the Philippines, "hey, can you finger any Al-Qaeda operatives around here?" Money is held out. Mohommed is having a feud with Muhammed, it is relatively new, just 3 generations old, so he says "sure, that Muhammed guy is the local Al-Qaeda leader, I overheard him talking to Osama on his cell phone."

The Special Forces report this "intelligence" up the chain of command until Barack Obama says "kill that MF Muhammed." The Predator drones go out and blow up his little village, killing women and children, but not killing everyone. It is a pretty good bet the young men who survive will be looking for an Internet connection to have a meet up with Al-Qaeda.

When you start looking at where Al-Qaeda is now compared to 2001, you will see they are beginning to look like the old British Empire. Expanding faster than a fast food chain backed by Goldman Sachs.

But Obama does not care about killing innocents. Signing off on assassinations makes him feel like God and keeps the Republicans and the National Security people off his back. All those Democrats in Congress with military bases and factories in their districts love the war too. What does it matter if a few Somali women get caught in the cross fire, when it means a Senator can pretend she is keeping jobs in her state?

So what we (peace loving people) need is a Congress and a President that will close down the CIA and Special Forces hit squads, turn Predators into solar arrays, and transfer funds from the Pentagon and Homeland Security to making life better for citizens. Maybe even pay some war reparations.

Where will our candidates come from? In 2006 the nation elected a Democratic Party dominated Congress, based largely on a promise of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That Congress evolved into what we have today. I can only conclude they were (and are) a bunch of lying politicians. They'd tell you chocolate is vanilla if they thought it would get your vote. (And sadly, most good party members would report "tastes like vanilla!")

So we would hope for independent or third-party peace candidates. But we know how that goes. The press mocks or ignores them. The donors don't donate. And the voters, well, I don't think the majority of voters are anti-war. They won't be anti-war until their own cousins are picked off by Predators. Which probably won't be long, but we are talking here about the 2016 elections.

For President we can expect Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Among the fire-breathing, imperialist, war mongering, lies if her lips are moving candidates, she would be my preference. Just as Barack Obama proved a sorta black man could be a President just like any white liar, Hillary would prove a woman can be President. Not a President I would like, but something lying, greedy, hypocritical young females can aspire to.

The Green Party and the Libertarian Party will each nominate someone as usual. Almost certainly it will be someone with no experience in political office. Sorry, but that is not going to win an election, or even put a dent in the American consciousness.

It gets grim beyond that. Rand Paul might be anti-war, but I don't trust him. Dennis Kucinich probably would not run as an independent; he feels safer in a war-crimes organization like the Democratic Party than out of it. Same for former President Jimmy Carter. The only real, heavy-weight peace candidate of my life-time, George McGovern, died in 2012.

But somewhere out there maybe there is a Representative or big-city Mayor or Governor who would make a credible peace candidate. I'll let you know if I hear of one. But my main hope is that the world's investors will realize the U.S. government is bankrupt and stop lending it money. Then we might finally see some serious reduction in war spending.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Self-determination in the Modern World

It never seems to end. There is fighting in the Ukraine. Israel continues its ethnic cleansing campaign. Having separated from Sudan, now the peoples of South Sudan are fighting among themselves. Iraq, Somalia, Thailand ... the list seems almost endless.

On the other hand, a lot of people with different ethnic heritages, religions, and customs get along just fine, almost all the time. America has its famous melting pot, if you are willing to overlook the earlier genocide against Native American Indians and discrimination against non-Europeans (and Irish, Jews, Italians ...). Partly that is because we have created a new nationalist identity, itself dangerous to other nations of the world. America has a high-proportion of modern people, who see religion as mythology and ethnic identities as old-fashioned. In a way "modern" people are globalists. A modern person can find people with similar outlooks almost anywhere in the world.

Individuals often hold modern and old-fashioned contradictions within themselves. Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States from 1913 until 1921, was a racist, in fact one of the key intellectual architects of 20th century racial segregation. Perhaps because of his racism, rather than in spite of it, he proposed to the peace conference after World War I that people should have the right to "self-determination." National borders would be drawn by the people themselves, so that an ethnic group might choose to have its own nation, or to combine freely with other ethnic groups into a larger nation.

When Wilson and the American delegation got to Versailles they found there were a lot of people interested in self-determination. People in the British, French, German, Dutch, Belgian, Italian, and former Ottoman empires, for instance. Ho Chi Minh was there (think of all the trouble that could have been prevented had the conference granted Vietnam independence from France.) But none of the empires had any interest in granting freedom to their conquests, and Japan, France and the British Empire actually grabbed more territory. Being on the winning side trumped universal ideas of justice. Nor did it ever occur to Wilson to free Puerto Rico or the Philippines.

The Japanese asked that all Asian peoples be granted self-determination and freedom from (European) colonial domination. They also asked for a general provision against racism, which Woodrow Wilson personally nixed. The only new nations to emerge were carved out of the losers, Germany, Turkey, Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Many of today's problems trace directly to the triumph of power and racism over justice at Versailles. Iraq, rather than being part of a larger pan-Arab nation, or being divided into Shiite, Kurd, and Sunni majority smaller nations, was created for British oil extraction. Palestine was divided off from Syria (which was given to the French) so that Britain could keep its promise to the Jews for their help in World War I. The nation now known as Jordan was given as a consolation prize to a pal of Lawrence of Arabia.

We cannot redraw the past, but modern people might well try to not repeat its obvious mistakes. I understand when ethnic groups and other minorities are, or feel they are, oppressed. That pushes them towards a desire for autonomy and independence. But nationalism, ethnic identification and racism are closely related. I think people do better when they trascend all that.

Adjusting borders in Africa, South America, and Asia that were drawn by European imperial powers makes some sense. This would have to be done on the principle of self-determination: let people draw their own lines. But many issues have no geographic solutions. Some minority groups have no majority areas. Many areas have complex mixtures of groups.

The better answer is to encourage the trend to a modern, friendly mindset based on the following principles:

Legal and economic justice for all.
Freedom of religion and expression.
Classic good governance: no corruption or favoritism of any kind.
Emphasizing our common humanity, not our cultural or physical differences.
Universal education in the generally accepted principles of ethics.

Human nature being what it is, setting things right will be a long, slow process. There have been several historical attempts to globalize an ethical system, usually a religion. I believe Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam all attempted to be universal religions, with a universal system of ethics for all people. Each failed, or at least has failed so far. Marxism (or more broadly, socialism including anarchism) also sought to be a universal cure for humanity. I think it is worth looking at each of the histories of these movements to see what they achieved and why they failed.

I believe the key is being universal, but not authoritarian. Universal tolerance and diversity can work as long as we share (and act on) core ethical values. Modern people do this. Modern people can treat anyone as an individual. Modern people do not oppress others. Modern people communicate and educate. Modern people show mercy. Modern people resort to self-defense only as a last resort, and never act as or facilitate aggressors.

There just are not enough of us, yet. But we can be found just about everywhere and anywhere. We just need to keep making more friends, and avoid corruption.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Terrorism Trial Asserts Global U.S. Jurisdiction

The conviction of British Cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri (legal name Mustafa Kamel Mustafa) for terrorism in a U.S. federal court today is not the first example of the government of the United States of America claiming the right to apply U.S. law to anyone, anywhere in the world, but it is a good example.

Consider what you would think of a court in another country (say Iran) convicting U.S. citizens of breaking Iranian law, even without leaving the U.S., or ever setting foot in Iran. Not too much, I would think. But Americans rarely conceive that our government's bullying of foreigners goes beyond all reasonable bounds.

It is not clear that Abu Masri is a terrorist. Certainly he believes people who subscribe to Islam should fight to protect Islam from attacks. Certainly his rhetoric is inflammatory.

But I want to focus on a particular problem created by his case (and prior cases like it): the assertion by the U.S. government that everyone in the world is under its jurisdiction.

What that means is that a law passed in America can be applied to anyone in the world. Talk about "taxation without representation;" this is policing without representation. This goes beyond the U.S. tradition of policing Latin America, and later the world, by assassinating national leaders or otherwise installing pro-U.S. puppets to rule countries.

The Supreme Court should throw out the entire case, but they won't.

Looking at the specifics, Abu Masri spent the entire period during which he was supposed to be a terrorist mastermind in the city of London, Great Britain. Born in Egypt in 1958, he first moved to Britain as a student in 1979. He did not leave Britain during the period during which his alleged crimes took place. Each of his alleged crimes took place outside of normal U.S. jurisdiction, the jurisdiction any non-imperialist nation would claim. After much legal wrangling Abu Masri was extradited to the U.S. on October 2012.

The main charge was that Abu Masri masterminded the kidnapping of 16 Western tourists (4 were killed) in Yemen in 1998. He was in Britain at that time. One of his sons was in Yemen, and may have been involved in the kidnapping, but was in a Yemen jail at the time. Suppose Masri was involved. Where did the crime take place? In Yemen. Which government has jurisdiction? Yemen. Case closed. The U.S. has no jurisdiction. Send Masri to Yemen, where I believe they have the death penalty for murder.

The charge closest to home is that followers of Abu Masri attempted to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon. But this was 1999, before the attack on the World Trade Center, and the training was to fight against the (pro-Soviet) Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Since we have the right to bear arms, and again Masri was in Britain, this seems like the kind of case setting a precedent to arrest anyone (in the U.S. and in the world) bearing arms that the government does not like. The U.S. might have jurisdiction over anyone actually in Oregon, but not over the guy in London.

Finally, there is the charge of recruiting (speaking in favor of) young Islamic males to go fight with the Taliban and al Qaeda. That means fighting against U.S. troops. What this judgment seems to say is that it is against the law for anyone, anywhere, to even think about fighting U.S. troops. Tell it to the Viet Cong. Tell it to American Indians. Tell it to the Canadians of 1812. We can kill you, and you can't fight back. No one can fight or bear arms without the permission of the President of the United States.

See what people mean by the term Imperial Overreach?

If someone walked up to Mr. Masri and shot him in the head, I would not take offense. It is the idea that U.S. courts have jurisdiction over everyone in the world that is just plain crazy.

It is a bad precedent, too, because the Superpower status of the U.S. is rapidly slipping away. The U.S. government is bankrupt. Already the wiser people in the U.S. government are trying to cut the fat out of the military budget, only to be hamstrung but corrupt members of Congress.

Will some foreign nation arrest George W. Bush, Barack Obama and crew for war crimes and crimes against humanity, once the U.S. collapses (maybe not full chaotic collapse, but certainly loss of superpower status)? Will some nation declare it is illegal to criticize them in the U.S.? Will the U.N. start bossing us around?

Let's stick to the traditional system. A nation's jurisdiction ends at its borders. Americans don't want to be bossed around by other nations, and other nations don't like being bossed around by the U.S.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Miracles: Seeds, Saints, Sands and Popes

Take any viable plant seed. Take, for instance, a poppy seed: a tiny bit of blackness, smaller than some grains of sand.

Add the proper conditions, generally just some water and ordinary soil. What appears to be a miracle follows. The seed sprouts, and under proper conditions grows into a plant thousands of times its original size. Then it creates beautiful flowers, which in turn each create hundreds of new seeds.

Until the 19th century or so this seed to flower process was a mystery. It was attributed to God (the mental projection on a much smaller Universe, by some humans, of a universal King), or was just a mystery of nature.

The recent accelerated filing of two dead Roman Catholic Church Popes for sainthood, by the current Pope, has re-opened the debate about miracles.

That Church basically admits to having no ability to produce miracles. Its miracles are more mundane than the sprouting of a poppy seed. No living Catholic can show any special power over nature. No Catholic can point at an ordinary grain of sand and make it grow into a poppy plant.

Catholic miracles are miracles of fame. A famous Catholic gets prayed to. If enough sick people pray to these potential saints, someone will get well, probably through the triumph of their innate immune system over some disease. Getting well happens every day, but Roman Catholics want to treat some healings as a miracle caused by their prayers to dead personalities.

Let me be clear: Buddhists are not able to produce genuine miracles. Neither can Islamists. Nor any of the many Hindu sects, nor any of the self-promotion gurus who run about like ants on a hot summer day. Donald Trump does not do miracles, nor do cinema stars, not even Matthew McConaughey.

The closest thing to a miracle the Catholic Church produced in the last century was the Miracle of Fascism. The fascist leaders (Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, Philippe Petain, Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII, and their allies and underlings) collectively almost managed to kill every Jew and Atheist in Europe. Call it the Holocaust Miracle. But they did not do it by waving magic wands, or converting non-Catholics by sprinkling them with holy water. The holy instruments were extermination camps, tanks, warplanes and just following orders.

I do not call myself an atheist, though others may use that label for me. I believe in Natural Liberation. If I say the poppy seed is a miracle, I mean a miracle within nature, not anything outside of nature. And if I say it was a miracle the Roman Catholic, fascist troops were defeated in World War II, I know it was the Red Army, its soldiers and tanks and all the apparatus of war, that defeated the Pope and his minions.

It is not possible to turn sand into a poppy seed, but it can be turned into silicon, which in turn can be used to do tricks with electronics, including calculating accounts and posting puppy videos to social media. Tricks are not miracles, but they have their uses.

Few humans want to be hopeless. Hopes crushed by Reality (governments and bosses of all sorts), many people want to believe in miracles.

Show them a poppy seed. And teach them some history. Adolf Hitler was Roman Catholic. Don't let that be forgotten. Popes are not good people. Popes are bad people. If you want to argue that some are more or less bad than others, that is your business.