Friday, September 28, 2012

The Obama phone and due diligence

I've been too busy lately to update the blog, and I really wanted to finish my series on the misuse of the words socialism, communism, and fascism that I started two posts ago, but I just have to comment on this video that has been going around.

I've spoken at length about polarization before, most thoroughly in my posts Ideology as opinion and The politician and the open mic. It is, however, a topic that keeps rearing its ugly head. This video is a perfect example of what is wrong with both sides of the polarized political spectrum. Those on the right are posting this video feverishly all over the internet to bash Obama. Clearly, some on the left see this issue as a reason to vote for Obama. Now, I'm the one that said that ideology is opinion, so why am I pointing this out as a bad thing? Why am I so annoyed by it that I take a break from my busy schedule to rant about it here?

Because the Obama phone is a myth. The program in question is the FCC's Lifeline Assistance Program. It has its roots in a law passed in 1934 to help ensure that all Americans had access to affordable landline service. The issue was less about providing subsidies for the service, and more about making sure that the lines reached everyone. It was expanded under Clinton in 1996 with the creation of the Universal Service Fund and the Universal Service Administrative Company. During this time, subsidies for landline phones were created. In 2008, under Bush, the program began to cover cell phones.

So what is happening is that people are blaming Obama based on a lie and people are supporting Obama based on a lie. This is a problem because if our support, or lack of support for a candidate comes simply from bias and hearsay, then our opinion of that candidate isn't an actual reflection of that candidate. Electing someone, or failing to elect them, based on things that they did not do prevents us from getting leaders in office that will do the things that we want or that won't do the things that we don't want.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, you can't trust major media or random internet posts to always present the whole story, or even not to tell outright lies. But fortunately, we do have the internet to track down actual facts. We have a greater means than any generation before us to perform due diligence on the candidates in an election and the politicians in office. But you can't simply find the first website that confirms your suspicions and believe it. The internet is full of more half-truths and full lies than conventional media will ever be. I've provided a list of actual events that led to the creation of this program. That is what you want to look for when doing your due diligence, when checking to make sure that the reason you dislike a candidate, or the reason you like a candidate is based in reality and not fiction. If you find a website that claims something about somebody, but provides no specifics to back it up, keep searching. If they do present specifics, verify those specifics with another source, preferably and official one. You don't owe it to the candidate to find out the truth, you owe it to yourself. The candidate is representing you.

We've seen the same issue with the recent barrage of attack ads by both sides concerning Medicare. Both Romney and Obama were telling falsehoods about the other guy's stance on Medicare. Even after they both were revealed to be "stretching the truth," the ads continued. Politicians and TV's talking heads think you are stupid enough to believe whatever they say. Prove them wrong.

As far as my opinion on the program goes, as a libertarian of course I am against it. At least in its current form. Cell phones are cheap enough now that anyone can afford a basic plan with a basic phone. I'm not, however, against the original intent in 1934 to help build the infrastructure. I'm sure many libertarians would disagree with me on that. But I believe that access to things such as wireless telephony and broadband internet is something that a country is judged by. Imagine a country where there are neighborhoods without electricity, or even neighborhoods without landline phones. You will undoubtedly think of some poor, third world country. I believe that the U.S. has a vested interest in ensuring that our infrastructure matches that of the rest of the civilized world. But making sure that everyone has the option to purchase something, and giving them the funds to do it, are two completely different things. I have no problem with government building roads. That doesn't mean I want government buying people cars to drive on them with.

And to further clarify my position, I believe that the money to fund these infrastructure advancements should come solely from usage tax. The money for the Universal Service Fund comes directly out of phone bills, not income tax. If we fail to uphold that standard then we end up with something like Social Security and Medicare, which paid out about twice as much as the related taxes brought in. Which is especially bad because unlike phone service fees Social Security and Medicare aren't optional. Of course, as I stated above, the USF isn't a shining example because it isn't being used merely to provide infrastructure.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A communist fascist? Part two: Socialism

This post is part two of a three part discussion on the importance of understanding words when you use them in the course of a political discussion. Part one of the discussion, A communist fascist? Part one: Intro, contains the discussion overview. It is recommended that you read it first, as references are made in this post to points made within that one.

In this section, we'll define two words, and take a look at how they relate to the political landscape. Webster's provides us with two relevant definitions of the word 'socialism'. We'll take a look at both of them. They are:
1) Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
2) A stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.
The second word, actually a phrase, that we are going to look at for this section is 'crony capitalism'. We'll use the definition given by Investopedia as it provides a meaningful discussion for us to examine. Crony capitalism is defined there as:
A description of capitalist society as being based on the close relationships between businessmen and the state. Instead of success being determined by a free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by the ruling government in the form of tax breaks, government grants and other incentives.
The ACA, (aka Obamacare, aka Romneycare) is the most often cited reason for calling Obama a socialist. But does the ACA fit that description? It certainly doesn't fit the first definition. The ACA requires that people purchase insurance from a private company. The government does not control the means of production for or administration of the insurance.  It does however, fit the description of 'crony capitalism'. Citizens are required, by law, to give money to a private entity. The very notion of forcing someone to give money to increase the wealth of someone else is the opposite of socialism. It is also the opposite of laissez-faire capitalism. The discussion on the Investopedia page linked above does a good job of explaining why both sides hate crony capitalism. Of course, both sides blame each other, as tends to happen in a polarized society.

But does the ACA fit into the second definition of 'socialism'? It's very hard to see how it could. First, the requirement that it be a transition to communism is not met. There are more misconceptions about what communism is than there are for socialism, and we'll discuss it in great detail in the next section. For now, let's just define it as an extreme form of socialism. We've already established that the ACA goes against the principles of socialism, and thus communism. (If you don't agree with that, please read the next section.) Second, since everyone is required to pay for their own insurance, or to pay a fine, it can hardly be called an unequal distribution of goods according to work done. So it doesn't seem to fit the second definition of 'socialism' either. It still fits nicely into the definition of 'crony capitalism' though.

In my opinion, crony capitalism is just as bad as socialism. Calling Obama a socialist for the ACA instead of a crony capitalist is no different than calling the murderer in the example from the previous post a rapist.  Nobody who knows what socialism means is going to take you seriously.  And people who might otherwise be sympathetic to the actual problem, are never going to hear the appropriate argument, at least not from you.

But what about welfare programs, such as food stamps? Do they make Obama a socialist? Well, first of all, if they do then every president in quite a few years has also been a socialist. Luckily for all of those past presidents, welfare spending doesn't fit the bill either. It's obvious why food stamps and other welfare programs do not fit the first definition. The government giving people money for food is not the same as the government making and distributing all of our food. The government is giving people money to give to private businesses.

Welfare spending might seem to fit into the second part of the second definition of socialism, it can be called an unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done. But, it in order for it to meet the second definition, it must also be proven that Obama is trying to move us towards a communist society. We've already seen how the ACA moves us away from a communist society (and unfortunately, away from a free market society as well). Obama's appointing of numerous Wall Street cronies who were a part of the banking crisis to cabinet positions also seems to move us toward crony capitalism and away from communism because the people in charge have a vested interest in making sure that certain industries succeed. One of the big ways that crony capitalism emerges in when the people who are writing the regulations are the people who we are supposed to be regulating. It's like letting criminals write the criminal code. It is horrible for society, it's something that should be talked about, it's something that should be stopped. It is not, however, communism. It's the opposite. It's private enterprise backed up with government interference. Since Obama cannot be simultaneously moving us toward communism and away from it, and we know that he is moving us toward crony capitalism, which is in direct opposition to communism, then it stands to reason that any increase in welfare spending doesn't fit into the first half of the second definition of socialism.

One more thing that I want to point out in this section is the meaning of the word 'socialized'. We hear this word used a lot to describe various entitlement programs. The way we use it here in the U.S. is mostly as a synonym for "government subsidized." In a truly socialist society, the word would mean that a business (and as such, it's means of production and administration) is owned either by the government, or by the workers themselves.  So please be aware of context when you use the term, as it has two different meanings.

Also, although I have given examples of how Obama's policies have allowed businesses to benefit, and shown how this fits the definition of crony capitalism instead of socialism, some my not believe that these are bad things. They may have perfectly valid reasons for thinking so. Simply replacing the word 'socialist' with the word 'crony capitalist' in your rants against Obama is not enough. You need to understand why you dislike crony capitalism. By itself, like socialism, it is just a word. Although often used as a pejorative, both of these words contribute nothing to a discussion if you are unable to articulate why you are against them. It is also important to note that many on the right are guilty of crony capitalism as well, which is why so many of them choose to use the inaccurate word 'socialism' to bash Obama instead. It helps your case in a discussion if you learn to judge politicians by their policies and not their political alignment alone.

I'll post a link to part three here when it is finished.

A communist fascist? Part one: Intro

When discussing any issue, or forming an opinion on said issue, a person should want to be as informed as possible. Anything less and you are betraying your own self-awareness and denying yourself any meaningful self-realization. You are relegating yourself to the role of not a grown man or woman, but rather someone else's tool, their puppet. More importantly, if you are ignorant enough of the topic at hand than nothing you say will carry any weight in the discussion, regardless of how open minded the other participants may be. Imagine trying to discuss algebra with someone who insists that 2+2=5. You aren't going to take that person's solutions to your problem very seriously are you? Only by being taken seriously can you sway the opinions of those who initially disagree with you.

Still, we see a tremendous amount of, very vocal, people in the political discourse who do not seem to understand the words that they are using. The three biggest misused words today are 'communism', 'socialism', and 'fascism'. If I point out that Obama hasn't done anything that would be considered socialist, I am often accused of believing "liberal media lies", or of being a 'libtard', or even simply of defending Obama. Well, first of all, I'm not basing my statement on media lies of any sort. I'm basing it on things like history books and dictionaries. Second, I'm not a liberal. Third, it's insane to say that disputing falsehoods about someone is 'defending' them in any real sense of the word.

To illustrate that last point, and further drive home why one should understand the words that they use before repeating them, let's imagine a (slightly disturbing) situation. Let's pretend that you witness someone murder your best friend. You are the only witness. If you call the police and tell them that this person just raped your friend, what is going to happen? The police are going to arrive, ask you if the person murdered your friend, you are going to say no, and inadvertently become the guy's alibi against the crime he actually did commit. There is going to be no evidence of rape, since that isn't the crime that was committed. The best case scenario for justice is that the cops still figured out what happened and the murderer is arrested. Of course, if they do, then you are going to jail as an accomplice because you told them that the murderer didn't do it. Moreover, if you run around saying this guy raped your friend, and he can point to medical records that show your friend wasn't raped, then he looks like the victim. In the eyes of the public, you've turned the murderer into the victim and yourself into the bad guy.

Saying that Obama isn't a socialist isn't defending him any more than saying that the murder in the above scenario isn't a rapist. Words have meanings. So let's take a look at those three words, define them, and give a few additional examples of how not knowing what these words means can weaken one's argument. This is going to be a relatively long discussion, so I'm going to break it down into sections. If you want to use these words, and be taken seriously in a political discussion, it is important that you understand what they mean. So I recommend that you read all of them as time allows.

Click the link below to read part two:
A communist fascist? Part two: Socialism

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Federal and national are not synonyms

There's a strange, and relatively recent, trend in America where most people do not seem to understand exactly what a "federal" government is. We often hear people upset that a presidential candidate, or United States congressperson does or does not support a certain issue. Often, a candidate will say the issue should be left up to the individual states to decide, and people get angry with him for that. But let's take a look at the word "federal" and what it means, both in definition and in applicability to the United States.

Wikipedia defines federalism as "a system based upon democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and provincial/state governments." In order to better understand what that means let's also look at the definition of centralism, which is federalism's opposite. Webster's defines centralism as "the concentration of power and control in the central authority of an organization."

Under a federal system of governance, the member states are given a certain amount of sovereignty from the federal (in our case, national) government. This means that those states are free to make their own rules in accordance with the views and needs of their citizens, and the federal government cannot exercise powers over those states that have not been expressly granted to it.

So, how do we know what powers our federal government has, and which powers the state governments have? The answer is clearly defined in the United States Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 gives a listing of all of the powers that congress has. The tenth amendment in the Bill of Rights says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." This means that anything not listed in the link above is not something that the federal government has the power to do.

I'm not saying whatever issue is important to you isn't important, or that it doesn't need to be addressed. But instead of asking someone without the authority to address the issue for you, or to change the entire structure of our country in order to give them that power, it makes far more sense to ask the person who does have that power. That person is your state governor. The governor of a state is an extraordinarily powerful man who, combined with the state legislature, probably does have the power to address your concerns.

By now, some of you are saying, "But John, my issue is an important issue and it should be addressed at the national level!" My question to you is, why? Why should a liberal state like California have influence over laws that affect a conservative state like North Carolina? Why should a conservative state have influence over laws that affect a liberal state? The United States is a huge country with a very large and diverse demographic of people. Each state has its own makeup of people, its own culture, its own needs. Those needs are best served within the state itself. Your issue probably isn't unique to the United States, but I can think of no one who would want one world government telling the whole world how it should live. I certainly don't want the Middle East or China having any influence on laws that effect me.

To put this into a greater perspective, let's take a look at the issue of prohibition. When alcohol was prohibited, the federal government knew that they had no power to tell the states how to regulate alcohol. So they drafted the 18th amendment, which then had to be approved by the states. By the time the prohibition of drugs came along, no such amendment or amendment process was made. We now have several states where companies are operating perfectly legal (under state law) medical marijuana dispensaries, who are getting raided under federal law. We have some states pushing for outright legalization and regulation of the drug like alcohol. They will also likely face opposition from the federal government, at least initially. The federal government is exercising the exact type of power over the states that the Constitution was drafted to prevent. Now some of you are saying, "But John! Marijuana is a blight on society and should be illegal!" Well, then, how would you feel if the federal government took away your state's right to make it illegal?

But maybe we need a further example, just to drive the point home. In almost all cases, the most horrendous crimes you can imagine, including murder and rape, are left up to the states. Federal laws exist, but are only applicable when the crime is committed within federal jurisdiction. So ask yourself this, is your issue more important to the human race than keeping murder and rape illegal? Probably not, but the federal government leaves those two things up to the states as well.

Every election there are people who have very strong opinions on who should be president. Many of these people pay little to no attention to who is running for congress, to whom the president has to answer. Fewer still pay attention to who is running for governor of their state or for their state legislature. Even less pay attention to who is running in their local mayor or county supervisor races, even though those are the politicians who arguably have more power over your day to day lives than any of the above. If you want to make the greatest impact in the political climate that affects you, then you have to understand how the government works. If you want to be involved in politics, then you really need to be involved at the appropriate level. You would not ask the president to change your counties zoning requirements, so why ask him to change the laws that have been delegated by our constitution to your state?

Sometimes, when I discuss this topic, fellow libertarians say that we should be opposed to government overreach in all forms of government and that the majority at any level should not be allowed to take away the liberties of the minority. And they are correct. But that is not the topic of this post.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The politician and the hidden mic

This blog keeps getting sidetracked from topics that I wanted to talk about when I created it, but I had to discuss this secret videotaping of Romney. It serves as a potent example of what us Libertarians are talking about when we discuss how similar the mainstream candidates in the two political parties are, and how they create a false dichotomy around the two parties.

First, let me say that I don't disagree with the general statement that Americans have an extreme sense of entitlement. I think you would be naive to think otherwise, but qualifying that statement would take a blog post in and of itself. I do disagree with the bulk of what Romney is saying. First, he's saying that the poor people are avoiding taxes. This is an interesting statement coming from a man with hidden accounts in Swiss and Cayman accounts. Stop being a hypocrite, Romney. Stop falling for it, Romney supporters. Second, he is complaining that people are only voting for Obama so they can get something for nothing. Well, Mitt, I have news for you, corporate welfare is no different that social welfare. In fact, we spend more money subsidizing the crony capitalists and propping up failed institutions that fund both your campaign and that of Obama than we do on welfare mothers struggling to feed their families. Stop being a hypocrite, Romney. Stop falling for it, Romney supporters.  You can't support the things that Romney does and make the statements that he did in that video. One form of out of control welfare spending is no different from the other in any real sense.

And finally, I vehemently disagree that we just ignore those people with a false sense of entitlement. For a presidential candidate to say that he doesn't care about 47% of the population is unforgivable. We don't give up on the poor who think they government should support them, we don't give up on the rich that think the government should support them. That continued polarization and the class separation that results is what is destroying this country right now. We don't give up on them, we find ways to bring about a cultural change that returns the American dream to rich and poor alike. A change that helps the poor realize that they have amazing opportunities in this country to make a better life for themselves, opportunities that many immigrants are thankful for because they don't exist in their native countries. A change that teaches the big corporations that they are responsible for dealing with their competitors and taking responsibility for their own failings, not the government.

But I can't make a post about presidential candidates and open mics without throwing a little of the blame Obama's way. I'm sure everyone remembers this exchange between Obama and Dmitri Medvedev. Obama is essentially saying, "Let me lie to the American people to get elected and then we'll talk." For what it is worth, I don't disagree with Obama wanting to talk to the Russians about the missile defense issue. If Russia set up missiles in Canada, Mexico, and Cuba, we'd be pretty upset too. In fact, we were. Does anyone remember the Cuban missile crisis? That was solved the way Obama wants to solve this one, diplomatically. What I object to is him implying that he is not going to be forthright with the American people over the issue.

And let's not forget this story of how Obama made a secret deal with the health insurance lobby to take the public option off of the table, while still telling the American public that he supported it. I'm not arguing in favor of the public option, I think there are better options, but that again, is a post for another time. But I am arguing that politicians should not lie to the American people in order to gain their support. They shouldn't lie about their intentions in order to create a false sense of polarization around the two parties. Americans should not support those politicians that do.

And I'm not going to say that libertarians (big L or little) are the only candidates with principles. I am a huge supporter of Jim Webb (D-VA) who committed what many would consider career suicide by saying that we need to re-evaluate and completely reform our criminal justice system. Americans on both sides of the political spectrum attacked him as being weak on crime even though he provided countless examples of systems that do a better job lowering crime and reforming criminals than our heavy handed approach does.

Americans often say of politicians like Jim Webb, or Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, "I agree with most of what he says, but such and such is just crazy." What those people need to understand is that candidates who say some things that the bulk of the population thinks is crazy, are the ones who are not pandering. Just because a candidate tells you everything you want to hear doesn't mean he believes a word of it. I'm not saying you blindly support a candidate because he says crazy things. I'm encouraging all Americans to look into the things these candidates say, research the facts for yourself. With the power of the internet at our disposal, we are not longer beholden to the often biased media for our information. Research the candidate's voting record. Stop judging them by the letter next to their name and start judging them by the actions they take. Stop judging them by whether you agree with what they say or not, and make the effort to determine if they are telling the truth.

Justin Amash(R-MI) and Adam Smith(D-WA) recently joined together to sponsor an amendment to remove the indefinite detention of American citizens clause from NDAA 2012. Americans need to start supporting candidates like Jim Webb and Gary Johnson, who tell us what we need to hear instead of what we want to hear. They need to start supporting candidates like Justin Amash and Adam Smith who are willing to work against the trend of false polarization and partisanship and come together for the betterment of this country. Your loyalty does not belong to a particular candidate. Their loyalty belongs to you. Hold them accountable for that. If we do not do that, then we cannot complain that politicians are all a bunch of crooks and liars, because we are the ones reward that behavior.

For more on my opinion of the polarization in the country, read my second post, Ideology as opinion.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jingoist vs patriot

This is going to be a relatively short post. I just want to address a phrase that I hear a lot of in political discussions. Sometimes, although very rarely, the phrase is used in what I would consider a legitimate sense. Most of the time, however, it is not. The phrase is, "If you don't like America, then leave!"

On its face, this seems like a fair enough phrase. I can imagine it being used against someone complaining that the United States isn't a communist nation, or a theocracy, or a monarchy, or any of the other things that stand in direct opposition to how our founders define our nation. In fact, if you look at the words, that's what they mean. "If you don't like America." Well, what defines America more than the Constitution and its Bill of Rights that...well, define America?

But people who use this phrase aren't often using against those people are stand against the constitution. Rather, we often hear it used against people standing up for the constitution. We hear it used against people complaining about the TSA,  NDAA 2012, the Patriot Act, the unconstitutional wars. The people who use the phrase in this context, do it under the pretense of being "patriotic." But is it patriotic to allow the government to take away the rights that for so many years defined America? Can you claim to love America, while simultaneously allowing the people in charge to redefine what it means to be American?

Jingoism, when used colloquially, means someone who blindly stands by their government no matter what. That is not patriotism, and it is not what it means to be an American. In order to prove that statement, I only need point out that it is not what the first Americans did. If George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Peyton Randolph, and all of the other men instrumental in our revolution had just said, "Well, I don't like it here, so I'm going to France!" then there would be no America for us to love. Those men made it very clear that when you see the rights that no government has the right to grant nor deny you being taken away, you do something about it.

Of course, I'm not saying that we pick up our muskets and have at it with the powers that be. But being vocal about our objections to their actions, and actively supporting liberty candidates who seek to restore our rights, are not actions that should be met with, "If you don't like America, leave." They are actions which should be met with respect, if not joined in on.

And just in case their actions weren't enough proof, here are some quotes from the founders that show their feelings on the issue:

What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? - Thomas Jefferson 
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. - Thomas Jefferson
When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. - Thomas Jefferson 
I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! - Patrick Henry
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. - Benjamin Franklin
Given these quotes, I find it hard to believe anyone would accuse those who seek to defend our constitution when the men and women elected to preserve it refuse to take that responsibility unto themselves of not loving America enough. I say to those people this, it is not I who does not love this country. It is you, who would turn your back on its defining principles rather than stand against those in power who seek to erase them from the minds of the populace. When so many great men gave their very lives for the freedoms they secured for us, it is a sad day when so few are willing to even give pressure to our politicians to restore them.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The case for non-interventionism

I want to talk in this post about all of the people I hear say that libertarian foreign policy is 'scary.' Often these people will point to Pearl Harbor as an example of what non-interventionism leads to. But that is not even remotely true if you look at the actual events leading up to the attack. Yes, the United States held strong non-interventionist or isolationist (two different terms) views during the period when WWII was brewing. But we were not behaving in a very non-interventionist fashion in 1941. We were sending money and war supplies to Britain, France, and China. When Japan tried to block imports to China in an attempt to stop our supplies from reaching them, we initiated an oil embargo against Japan that crippled their war effort. It was during the second Imperial Conference that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto finally got approval for the attack on Pearl Harbor, but only under the condition that a diplomatic solution was not reached.  Now, Japan certainly gave us no ultimatum that hinted that they were willing to go to war over the issue. And considering that Japan's goals at the time were expansion at the expense of the Chinese people, it's questionable whether any diplomatic solution could have really been reached. But the facts cannot be denied. We were not attacked at Pearl Harbor because we did not intervene. We were attacked because we did. Keep in mind that I'm not saying that we deserved the attack, or any other such nonsense that opponents of non-interventionism usually start accusing its proponents of at this point in the discussion. I'm merely pointing out that you can't blame non-intervention for the attack when in fact the opposite is the case.

Now I want to talk about the other criticism that people want to attack non-interventionists on regarding WWII. The notion that we would stand by and let a holocaust happen. 2012 Libertarian Party candidate for president has stated that he can't imagine any president setting idly by and letting a holocaust happen. I'm a Libertarian, but had I been president in August 1942 when we finally had reliable confirmation of Germany's 'Final Solution' there's no way I would have ignored it. That doesn't mean that an immediate declaration of war and full invasion would have been my first choice either. There's a vast difference between intervening in a holocaust and intervening in every conflict around the world. 

This seems like a good time to talk, very briefly, about the differences between non-interventionism and isolationism. The two are often used interchangeably by opponents of non-interventionism, but they are not the same. Isolationism means that a country does not engage in trade with other countries, they do not have tight diplomatic ties, they may even enforce a ban on immigration all in the name of isolating themselves from the rest of the world. Non-interventionism is not isolationist at all. Under non-interventionism, a country will still have free trade with all nations. Under non-interventionism, a country would still have diplomatic ties with other countries. They just wouldn't have military bases in those countries, or try to police the actions of those countries with military force.  For a real-life example, almost any proponent of non-interventionism would end our trade embargo with Cuba and open ourselves up for more friendly diplomatic ties.

Now let's continue our look at history and how non-interventionism has treated us. For this example, we'll go to the Cuban Missile Crisis. When the United States discovered that there were nuclear missiles dangerously close to our borders in Cuba, there were a few options presented. Some wanted a full on invasion of Cuba, others wanted sanctions or embargoes, or more focused military strike. JFK instead responded initially with a military blockade. Upon hearing of the blockade, Soviet leader Khrushchev call the blockade, "an act of aggression propelling humankind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war." Kennedy and Khrushchev ended up solving the issue through secret negotiations. Handling disputes diplomatically is a core tenet of non-interventionism and the exact opposite of our current foreign policy of preemptively striking anyone that we even suspect may be a threat to us. It's that core tenet of non-interventionism that prevented a nuclear war, and our current foreign policy that would have started one.

Let's take a quick look at how intervening has done us no good. Obviously, the Vietnam war is a great example of a war that never should have happened, but it's not the strongest case in recent history that can be made for a more non-interventionist policy. In the 80s, Iraq and Iran were at war. The United States government did not like the new leader of Iran. So we gave weapons, money, and specials forces training to Saddam Hussein's army. Of course, for obvious reasons, this further strained our relations with Iran. But it also put into power a man that we would go to war with twice. The second Iraq war was over weapons of mass destruction that didn't even exist. Thousands of lives were lost for a threat that wasn't there. And rather than learn from that, now our politicians are ready to repeat the same mistake in Iran. The same course of action that would have led to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

And while we did put Saddam in power and then fight him twice, he's still not the best example of where our interference in the affairs of other nations has came back to bite us. That distinction belongs to our support of Osama Bin Ladin during the nine year war between the Soviets and the Afghans. By interfering in something that really had nothing to do with us, we created the monster that masterminded the most disastrous attack on American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor that we discussed in the beginning of this post. But the story of Osama Bin Ladin has a second tier to it. Osama's first opposition to us came during the first Iraq war. He was upset that 'infidels' were occupying Saudi Arabia, which is considered a revered holy land in Islam. If we hadn't propped Saddam up in the 80s, would we have even had the war that angered Osama Bin Ladin so much? If we hadn't propped Osama himself up in the 80s, would he have had the resources to attack us? How many horrible people do we have to put into power before we learn that diplomacy and non-intervention is the best way to keep America safe? How long before we finally realize that violence doesn't end violence, it only extends it? 

So I say to all of you that Libertarian foreign policy isn't scary. It's mainstream foreign policy that is scary. But if you want to see non-interventionism in action, just look at most other countries in the world. Canada faces far less threat of terrorist attack than the United States does, and involves their military in the affairs of far less countries than we do. The same can be said most of Europe. Now, correlation does not equal causation. So that fact may just be a coincidence. But, given all of the evidence presented above to the contrary, I think it's more than fair to say that it is not purely coincidence and that we should be learning something from the foreign policies of more peaceful nations.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ideology as opinion

My first post, located here, was shared by someone on Google+ and one of the comments said that they liked my paragraph about ideology being an opinion. So, partly out of pandering, and partly out of a genuine belief that it is a topic worth exploring further, I want to talk about that a little bit more and explain why it is an important view to take.

I'm sure there are some out there who would argue that I if I don't think that my ideology is 'right' that I'm somehow betraying my belief in that ideology. But that is based on the false premise that me being 'right' means everyone else must be wrong. Say for example there is a fire. I want to throw water on the fire, someone else wants to throw a blanket on it. Who is right? If we argue over whether to throw water or a blanket on this fire, then whatever it is that is burning is going to be nothing but a pile of ashes. However my argument that ideology should be viewed as an opinion goes beyond mere polarization.

Believing that your ideology is right and the other guy is wrong implies that there is no overlap. I can think of no ideology where that is the case. A communist and a libertarian can certainly agree that murder should be illegal. But those two ideologies are most assuredly opposed to one another at face value. During the republican debates, Michelle Bachmann proudly declared that she disagreed with everything Obama said. Does that mean that Bachmann thinks murder should be legal? Obama certainly does not. They agree on that.

So far, I'm still giving examples of polarization. But that is because I am giving the most extreme examples. For every extreme position that an ideology subscribes to, there are thousands of little gray areas. It's within these gray areas that we can work together to effect change. Most people have no problem agreeing with me on that. Michelle Bachmann, her far right buddies, and the (much smaller, or less vocal) far left opposition might be the only ones that do not.

Now I know what you are thinking, "But John, if you talk about the areas where the ideologies agree, then you aren't pointing out why you should be willing to listen to opinions where they don't." But aren't I? I've mentioned in a discussion about healthcare on another site that Singapore has a system which is both more libertarian than ours, and more progressive. It was correctly pointed out that we can't simply transplant Singapore's system into the U.S. and expect it to work. But if we don't discuss that issue openly, then the black view of one ideology and the white view of the other never have the chance to become a workable gray area. We never find a solution where both ideologies can further their goals and our society as a whole benefits.

Almost every single issue has a common ground. It's only by accepting that we either don't have all of the answers, or don't have the answers that everyone can agree on, that we open up our mental palettes beyond monochrome.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I first decided to create this blog due to the increasingly rambling nature of my political Google+ posts and, occasionally, my Facebook posts. The original idea was for a Youtube channel, but, well, I'm lazy. Shooting and editing video is way to much like work for me. So here we are in plain old wall of text form.

Deciding on a first topic wasn't particularly hard, at least not in theory. However, when planning out all of the posts, I began to realize that by talking politics nearly exclusively on Google+ and Facebook had shielding me from a lot of the...undesirables. Every time I began working on a post, I felt the need to get sidetracked and explain things for the type of political ignoramus who uses words like 'libtard' and 'repuke'.

I ran into a similar such person right before writing this while reading a story on Yahoo! about Dmitry Medvedev calling for the release of Pussy Riot. For those who don't know, Pussy Riot is a band that was recently imprisoned for a two-year sentence for disrupting a church with anti-Putin speech. Someone commented on the article, "I see communism is alive and well in Russia." Now, I suppose this person might be a troll, but there are a shocking number of people who actually do think that Pussy Riot's unfair treatment is some form of "communism." These are the same people who use the words 'socialism', 'communism', and 'fascism' interchangeably, even though the three words have three different meanings. In the case of communism and fascism, the meanings are not only different, but nearly conflicting.

I ran into another such person a while back on Facebook while commenting on the status update of a mutual acquaintance. The claim was made that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, exempted congress from its effects. I posted a response linking to the bill on an official .gov website, and citing the page and section that specifically says that congress is NOT exempt from the provisions of the ACA. I was accused of believing, "liberal media lies." Of course, nobody making the claims that I am wrong has ever presented any properly cited evidence to that effect. Rather, they blindly believe whatever FOX news host told them this lie, even when presented with contradictory evidence from the bill itself.

But the right doesn't get to hold the monopoly on my frustrations with talking politics to the greater masses. Just like their counterparts on the opposite end of the spectrum who lack the actual knowledge to discuss a topic beyond calling the other person a 'libtard', there are plenty of people on the left who must result to using words like 'repuke'.

We've reached a point in this country where the majority (at least the vocal majority) of the population is so polarized that the only position they hold on an issue is whatever the opposite of the other guy is. Case in point are the conservatives who invented the individual mandate, first through the Heritage Foundation, and then through Mitt Romney's implementation while governor, turning against the mandate because a democrat decided that he agreed with it. Similarly, liberals who vehemently opposed Bush's signing of the Patriot Act and warfare mentally, now defend Obama for the same.

The refusal to think for oneself makes the discussion of politics with those who don't care to educate themselves and form an opinion based on sound reason and analysis of the facts very difficult. The refusal to understand that our ideologies represent our opinion on a given situation, and that there are multiple ways to solve a problem, make progress in this country by coming to mutually agreeable terms difficult, if not impossible.

The point of this long winded rant is that the posts on this blog will be meant largely for people who realize that Obamacare is not communism. They will be meant for the type of person who can back up their position with reason and, if needed, properly cited references. They will be meant for the type of person who is intelligent enough to realize that their ideology is merely their opinion. That neither the liberals, the conservatives, or the libertarians, are entirely right or entirely wrong. Although some posts may be made with education specifically in mind, I'm not going to sidetrack my posts explaining things that anyone discussing politics should already know.