Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Voice in the Wilderness

Why is it acceptable for an exclusive group to profit from ruining the economy? It is for the same reason that it has been allowed that an economy grow upon shady I.O.U.'s or--as they are referred to in the following passage--"paper currency." While the speaker here was indeed a greatly flawed individual, his analysis of the problem at hand at that time--and at the time of every financial crisis since--is impeccable:

"It is one of the serious evils of our present system of banking that it enables one class of society, and that by no means a numerous one, by its control over the currency to act injuriously upon the interests of all the others and to exercise more than its just proportion of influence in political affairs. The agricultural, the mechanical, and the laboring classes have little or no share in the direction of the great moneyed corporations; and from their habits and the nature of their pursuits, they are incapable of forming extensive combinations to act together with united force. Such concert of action may sometimes be produced in a single city or in a small district of country by means of personal communications with each other; but they have no regular or active correspondence with those who are engaged in similar pursuits in distant places. They have but little patronage to give the press and exercise but a small share of influence over it; they have no crowd of dependents about them who hope to grow rich without labor by their countenance and favor and who are, therefore, always ready to exercise their wishes. The planter, the farmer, the mechanic, and the laborer all know that their success depends upon their own industry and economy and that they must not expect to become suddenly rich by the fruits of their toil. Yet these classes of society form the great body of the people of the United States; they are the bone and sinew of the country; men who love liberty and desire nothing but equal rights and equal laws and who, moreover, hold the great mass of our national wealth, although it is distributed in moderate amounts among the millions of freemen who possess it. But, with overwhelming numbers and wealth on their side, they are in constant danger of losing their fair influence in the government, and with difficulty maintain their just rights against the incessant efforts daily made to encroach upon them. The mischief springs from the power which the moneyed interest derives from a paper currency which they are able to control; from the multitude of corporations with exclusive privileges which they have succeeded in obtaining in the different states and which are employed altogether for their benefit; and unless you become more watchful in your states and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges, you will, in the end, find that the most important powers of government have been given or bartered away, and the control over your dearest interests has passed into the hands of these corporations. The paper money system and its natural associates, monopoly and exclusive privileges, have already struck their roots deep in the soil; and it will require all your efforts to check its further growth and to eradicate the evil. The men who profit by the abuses and desire to perpetuate them will continue to besiege the halls of legislation in the general government as well as in the states and will seek, by every artifice, to mislead and deceive the public servants. It is to yourselves that you must look for safety and the means of guarding and perpetuating your free institutions. In your hands is rightfully placed the sovereignty of the country and to you everyone placed in authority is ultimately responsible. It is always in your power to see that the wishes of the people are carried into faithful execution, and their will, when once made known, must sooner or later be obeyed. And while the people remain, as I trust they ever will, uncorrupted and incorruptible and continue watchful and jealous of their rights, the government is safe, and the cause of freedom will continue to triumph over all its enemies."--Andrew Jackson (from his Farewell Address)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Progressive Conservatism

So-called 'progressives' have been working for a 'more just' version of the status quo since the latter part of the 19th century. That said, they (and many who call themselves 'liberal') have been staunch guardians of the status quo nonetheless. To illustrate lets take a look at the issue of higher education. Here we'll see how the progressive-conservative President-elect proposes to impose higher education upon the citizenry:(

"Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama and Biden will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Recipients of the credit will be required to conduct 100 hours of community service."

So in other words, citizens will have to earn the 'priviledge' of gaining the skills to work for other people. Let's compare now to a liberal on the subject... the principal author of the constitution--James Madison --who believed that higher education was a necessary element of SELF-governance.

" is better for the poorer classes to have the aid of the richer by a general tax on property, than that every parent should provide at his own expence for the education of his children, it is certain that every Class is interested in establishments which give to the human mind its highest improvements, and to every Country its truest and most durable celebrity. Learned Institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty & dangerous encroachments on the public liberty... Whilst those who are without property, or with but little, must be peculiarly interested in a System which unites with the more Learned Institutions, a provision for diffusing through the entire Society the education needed for the common purposes of life."

Wow... now granted, Obama couldn't utter such things without being accused of dropping communist buzzwords. But nonetheless it is yet another sign of how our Country has devolved, that we are expected to be forced into one servitude or another in order to gain the means that our founding fathers intended for breaking the bonds of servitude. We need to insist that the elected officials in our employ accept the enlightened ideals that our country was founded upon!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Haguedelic Baby!

"Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war and we know God is
not neutral between them."--George W. Bush

Ouch. During the recent presidential campaign it seemed that we heard a lot more about "Joe the Plumber" than we did about what each candidate would do if asked by the International Criminal Court to extradite one or more members of the departing administration. It would have seemed a valid question to ask during debate. The answer would speak to the candidates vision for our role in the world. It might also test each on their knowledge of international law. Though the U.S. is not an ICC member, neither was Sudan prior to the indictment against that nation's standing president. Then comes the matter of the Geneva Convention, of which the U.S. is a signee. As to whether the "enemy combatants" in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and detained elsewhere constitute prisoners of war, the question remains hazy. On the other hand, the treatment of prisoners in Iraq must be considered to be covered I offer an excerpt from the Convention's text. I have highlighted those points which I have deemed particularly relevant in blue, but included the surrounding text of this excerpt in order that context be preserved:

Article 13

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or
omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the
health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded
as a serious breach of the present Convention.
In particular, no prisoner of war
may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments
of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment
of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest. Likewise, prisoners
of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or
intimidation and against insults and public curiosity. Measures of reprisal
against prisoners of war are prohibited.

Article 14

Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour. Women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit by treatment as favourable as that granted to men. Prisoners of
war shall retain the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their
capture. The Detaining Power may not restrict the exercise, either within or
without its own territory, of the rights such capacity confers except in so far
as the captivity requires.

Article 15

The Power detaining prisoners of war shall be bound to provide free of charge for their maintenance and for the medical attention required by their state of health.

Article 16

Taking into consideration the provisions of the present Convention relating to rank and sex, and subject to any privileged treatment which may be accorded to them by reason of their state of health, age or professional qualifications, all prisoners of
war shall be treated alike by the Detaining Power, without any adverse
distinction based on race, nationality, religious belief
or political opinions,
or any other distinction founded on similar criteria.


Article 17

Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information. If he wilfully infringes this rule, he may render himself liable to a restriction of the privileges accorded to his rank or
status. Each Party to a conflict is required to furnish the persons under its
jurisdiction who are liable to become prisoners of war, with an identity card
showing the owner's surname, first names, rank, army, regimental, personal or
serial number or equivalent information, and date of birth. The identity card
may, furthermore, bear the signature or the fingerprints, or both, of the owner,
and may bear, as well, any other information the Party to the conflict may wish
to add concerning persons belonging to its armed forces. As far as possible the
card shall measure 6.5 x 10 cm. and shall be issued in duplicate. The identity
card shall be shown by the prisoner of war upon demand, but may in no case be
taken away from him. No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of
coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information
of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be
threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment
of any kind.
Prisoners of war who, owing to their physical or mental condition,
are unable to state their identity, shall be handed over to the medical service.
The identity of such prisoners shall be established by all possible means,
subject to the provisions of the preceding paragraph. The questioning of
prisoners of war shall be carried out in a language which they understand.

Article 18

All effects and articles of personal use, except arms, horses,
military equipment and military documents shall remain in the possession of
prisoners of war, likewise their metal helmets and gas masks and like articles
issued for personal protection. Effects and articles used for their clothing or
feeding shall likewise remain in their possession
, even if such effects and
articles belong to their regulation military equipment.

So, rather interestingly this would seem to cover the routine abuse that has been reported in Iraq. To quote from the BBC (July, 23, 2006):

The HRW report gives first-hand accounts of abuses at a detention centre at
Baghdad airport called Camp Nama, as well as a facility near Mosul airport and a
base near al-Qaim on the Syrian border. An interrogator posted at Mosul in 2004 told HRW that he and his fellow interrogators had been told by the officer in charge of their unit to use abuse techniques on some detainees. He described how they used dogs to intimidate the detainees, had them walking on their knees in the gravel and standing for extended periods with arms outstretched holding water bottles.
An interrogator at Camp Nama said the use of abuse techniques was commonplace - authorisation forms could be easily prepared for commanding officers to sign. "I never saw a sheet that wasn't signed," the soldier said. HRW gives accounts of instances where soldiers who were concerned by the abuses were thwarted from reporting it. One military police guard at the facility near Qaim, who took his concerns to an officer, was reportedly told: "You need to go ahead and drop this, sergeant."

As quoted above in the Geneva Convention an occupying force is bound to inflict: No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind. Surely those who gave the orders, including members of the executive branch of our Government who initialed memos scrawling "make sure this gets done!" in the margin. Sounds like good advice for the ICC and the incoming administration.

Here are some links for more on this topic

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Human Shield Business Model

Here's how the Human Shield Theory of business operates: Rather than relying on the natural flow of the market--in which businesses are run by interested holders of capital--this business model relies upon the guidance of mercenaries with little or no interest in the success or failure of the enterprises which they guide. This lack of incentive has the same inevitable result as it does in any bureaucratic endeavor: the function which the bureaucrat is supposed to serve (in this case earning a profit for the shareholders) is not served! How then is such an enterprise to continue? With a little help from the people that the company's board members, (board member's cousins, nephews, real estate agent, what have you) have sent to represent them... er, um the people of this or that constituent district. If however there remain some palms left ungreased, there is a simple and well practiced fall back position to assume: Hold the livelihoods of the employees as one would A HUMAN SHIELD! Very clever. Though we must hold the same position against such ruthlessness that we a supposed to hold in more serious matters of this sort. We do not negotiate with terrorists--and we should not negotiate with incompetent executives that act as petty terrorists. Hurray that the GOLDEN AIRBAG is dead for now!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Toward Self-Governance

The purpose of this blog is simple: Resurrect from extinction long lost political philosophies. While no political philosophy can be said to be perfect, either in itself or in view of surrounding circumstances, the notions of individual liberty and legal equality are as profoundly revolutionary today as they were 200+ years ago. The political philosophy that I hold is derivative of these classical notions of American liberalism. The belief that government should take a negative role only so far as is necessary to protect individual liberty, and should have a limited positive role in aiding individuals in the execution of self-governance. That more than a government by popular sovereignty government should ultimately be the devise by which the Natural Rights of the individual are recognized and protected as civil rights. As Thomas Jefferson put it: "The rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals"