Monthly Archives: February 2014

Individual Rights: Essential to a Free Society

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As of today, all of the fruits of your labor will be donated to the state. Your occupation, based off of personality tests, will be lawn engineering. Your job is to make sure that the landscape in your town looks perfect. We know you have wanted to pursue a career in computer engineering (based off of the phone conversations we’ve been listening to your entire life), but the community needs landscapers. That sounds like an awful collectivist world where individual rights are not held to the highest esteem. Why does it seem so creepy when others make these types of decisions for us? We are all individual beings, and when we are forced to be a part of a collective**, our individual souls suffer; we are not allowed to find who we really are because our bodies do not belong to us.

One thing that we all have in common is inalienable human rights which were defined under the United States Constitution to organize a society which was just being born. This was the first time in history that the rights of the citizens were defined in a government document, and that is the reason why it has been used as an example for constitutions around the world. There have been countless debates over the years as to what type of society a human should live in. We are a social species who thrives off of fellow human contact, but we are also a species who needs to spend time by ourselves. Every single one of us is different, and all different types of people have been trying to figure out how we can all live in harmony on this earth together. When those rights have been regulated by an imposing collective, the individual becomes confused and agitated: Why do I have to be a landscaper instead of a computer engineer? Your parents will tell you, “That’s just the way it is, and you should be proud to be a part of bettering the community.” This conflicting environment creates in the individual what is called cognitive dissonance.

Chances are, after your parents and others in the community congratulate and praise you for being the town’s newest landscaper, you’re probably thinking, “Well, landscaping can’t be so bad. I’ve always loved mowing the lawn.” At this point, you are creating the illusion that you have always loved mowing the lawn, and you helped your dad put in some sprinklers and a pond one time and you loved it. Pretty soon, you forget all about being a computer engineer because landscaping is your life. This is what Leon Festinger (1957) calls cognitive dissonance: a situation where the individual believes one thing but acts a different way, which results in discomfort. This discomfort is relieved by changing one’s attitudes or beliefs around the conflicting behavior, and the result is an unhappy being. The collective forces this type of compliance onto the individual, and eventually it spreads to all individuals and makes a population unhappy.

When you have an unhappy but obedient collective, the individual is suffering, and when the individual suffers, he will try to overcome this suffering by means he has learned throughout his life. Some things individuals do to cope with suffering is relieving the stress that is caused by it. We know positive ways to relieve stress, but the negative ways seem to be increasing across the nation, and sometimes that stress can kill us. According to the CDC, suicide has made it to the top ten leading causes of death in the country at more than 38,000 deaths in 2010. According to suicide.org, untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide, and depression amongst the population has leaped significantly since the Great Recession of 2008. Americans were hit with home foreclosures, loss of money in the stocks, loss of their jobs, and an out of control government bailing out the banks and corporations that caused the meltdown in the first place. It seemed that during that time, a lot of Americans lost hope, and according to Forbes.com, the U.S. leads the world in depression rates at a total of 9.6% of the population suffering. Compare that to a .8% depression rate in Nigeria, and you have yourself a huge problem. A lot of this depression stems from Americans feeling like they will never get to live the American dream because most of their money gets taken from the government in taxes and they cannot find a job.

When you have collective control over the economy, unemployment rises. Why? Because the key to a collectivist society is getting the individual to depend on the collective. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,  as of January 1st, 2014, almost 5 million Americans are collecting unemployment, 13 million are on welfare, and a whopping 46 million use food stamps. Not including unemployment and food stamps, the federal government uses $131.9 billion of tax payers’ money to pay for these “benefits.” These costs do not even compare to how much tax payers are going to pay for those 60 million non-workers’ healthcare. How is the already stretched and depressed tax payer going to afford that? The answer is that a lot of us can’t afford to without thinking about turning to welfare to help us get by. If this doesn’t constitute as a collectivist-leaning society, I don’t know what would.

Although all of this sounds bleak in comparison to our ancestors’ America of roads paved in gold, we still have a chance to turn our country around to cater to the individual like we once did before. We must stay vigilant in holding our representatives responsible for what they legislate and always stand up for the underdog. We must question the official narrative of everything because it is our duty to keep our government in check, and as long as we keep on asking questions, we will find answers. The Millennial generation grew up with promises of going to college, getting a degree, getting a part time job, meeting our soul mate, getting married, having kids, and retiring at 65. As long as you follow the program, you will succeed, just like your parents did. Now we are finding that these promises were never true, that we have to find our own way that wasn’t promised to us, and that we may have to work until we die. As long as we stay active and voice our opinion, our generation will be the one that leads future generations into getting back to the America with “roads paved in gold,” where the individual soars, and the government stays out of the way.

** If an individual chooses to be a part of a collective, that is different. If we are born into a collective, we did not get to choose.

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What is Capitalism?

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The dictionary isn’t going to tell you. I remember asking a similar question as a child: what is economy? What is capitalism and what is the economy? Before you read any further, erase your mind of any prior conceptions you had of economics because the answer may confuse you. The answer to these questions is simple on the surface: economics is about human action. That’s it. But, human action is a very complex subject. That’s where the complexities of economics comes in, and the intimidation one feels when researching economics. I am here to tell you that economics is not a subject left solely to males or masters, and it is our duty to understand what it is and it is something that affects our everyday lives.

Before we begin to understand what capitalism is, based off of new information, we must first define what capitalism is not. Capitalism is not wealth accumulated through corporations and government subsidies. Capitalism is not going through the government to get a business license, adhering to strict tax laws and government regulation. A capitalist economy does not thrive with the advent of government.

Wealth accumulated through corporations and government subsidies where the economy is controlled by legislators working hand-in hand with these corporations is called CORPORATISM! The first known use of the word, “corporatism” goes back to the 19th century, Adam Muller of France devised an economic system whose collectivist leanings provides protection to the political class but not the individual.  Muller’s thought was that if markets and private property were regulated by the state (a blanket term for government), then human greed could be regulated. However, if you have legislators and corporations in control of the country’s money supply and what certain businesses can and cannot do, then you have created three separate classes: the corporations, the politicians, and the consumer. Bankers and businessmen took hold of this idea, and in the early 20th century with the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, America took its first step towards corporatism by imposing a forced income tax and transferring control of the money supply to a bank whose practices are kept secret, even from Congress. Did you know that the Federal Reserve is not even federal? It is a corporation that created money whose value is based off of the money that is already in circulation — not sound money. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was authored by bankers in a secret meeting on Jekyll Island, Georgia, so it is safe to say that this was the first turning point into America’s corporatism (not capitalism).

If you wish to verify any of that information, go ahead. Now you have all of these great ideas and you want to start a business but don’t know where to start. Hey! It’s hot outside, why not go set up a lemonade stand and make some extra change from some thirsty customers? So, you go construct a stand with a perfect banner on top. We will call your business Cold Ass Lemonade. It’s not just cold… It’s cold as shit. Anyway, so everything’s perfect you got your lemonade stand all set up and ready to go with mom’s secret lemonade recipe, and guess what? It’s cold as shit. You made $50 today which makes your total capital gain $20 with supplies and all. Congratulations! You just made money from your first business! Except for that you’re gonna have to pay $3 in taxes, $2 for Social Security, $1 for Medicare, $10 in fees for not getting a business license,  oh and $1 for Ma. Now all you got is $3 dollars. Don’t spend it all in one place. You did not choose to pay these fees, it was chosen for you before you were even born. YOU! set up the stand, got Ma’s help, and made that super sweet Cold Ass Lemonade banner, but the government took $17. That is what corporatism is. Actually, the FCC is going to charge you $2 for your business name and slogan being offensive, so you paid $19 to the government. That’s corporatism. Let’s look at Cold Ass Lemonade’s profits if the government was not involved.

Well, first of all, Ma could be paid more, let’s raise her payment to $5 — the same amount paid in taxes and Social Security. That leaves you with $15. Keep $5 for yourself, and invest the rest in awesome cups for the customers since they said the cups were boring. Now you have a growing business, something that is 10 billion times harder to do under corporatism. Maybe the next day you will make $30 in profit and you can donate some to charity. Ma, your helper, was able to get paid more, YOU were able to be paid more, AND you were able to invest in your business to satisfy your customers. All you had was a recipe, sweet banner, and a stand without having to worry about paying anyone else. As long as you are just and ethical, the customers will come, and you can build your business. This is capitalism. This is laissez faire.

Imposing taxes and regulations on business via the government make it harder for the business to operate because it has to adjust its prices around the taxes and regulation. For instance, if you wanted to still make $5 while paying taxes, then the lemonade price needs to be higher even though the quality is the same. Ever wonder why almost everything we buy is made in China? This collectivist type of regulation raises prices and ENCOURAGES greed due to criminals dodging and good citizens following the regulations… In a REAL capitalist society, only the fair businesses with the highest quality for the smallest price thrives. That’s when you introduce Frosty Lemonade, new competition on the block. Cold Ass Lemonade and Frosty Lemonade will compete for the highest quality product for the smallest price to bring in the most customers. Maybe Frosty Lemonade will put Cold Ass Lemonade out of business, but that is the risk you take in starting  a business. This is the simplest way I can explain capitalism: business ran without government interference.

I guarantee that if you go to your political and economics professors tomorrow and tell them what real capitalism is, they will tell you that you are wrong, that the current system we have is capitalism and that’s why things are so messed up. It is important to stand up for what you believe in. Do not be afraid to challenge authorities such as professors and teachers and to stick out from the crowd. Be a leader full of different knowledge.

If you are interested in learning more about real capitalism, sound money, and the business cycle, visit: http://www.mises.org and click on “Literature.”

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Wondering.

If you do not know who you are, who have you been living with your whole life?

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February 25, 2014 · 8:17 pm

Philosophy 2009

The mind is only as shallow as the effort put forth to dig.

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February 22, 2014 · 10:25 pm

Thought 2008

Language is a methodical art.

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February 21, 2014 · 1:03 am

Save the Press

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Imagine that you are a journalist about to make your big break – the story you have wanted to write about your entire career. You are covering a piece on John O. Brennan, director of the C.I.A., which will expose corruption and change the debate of American domestic policy as we know it. Before you know it, the F.B.I. is harassing you, you are reaching out to friends and lawyers for help, and your brand new Mercedes C250 Coupe blows up. You’re dead. According to multiple news outlets (New York Magazine, Huffington Post, Infowars, RT USA), that is exactly what happened to Michael Hastings, a journalist for The Rolling Stone on June 18th, 2013. Hastings’ death gave every journalist across the nation a very clear message: be careful of what you write about. Freedom of the Press is specifically protected under the United States Constitution. The press is supposed to act as the seeing-eye dog to the American public – a trend that is literally dying with this type of intimidation and invasion of privacy that our federal government is imposing on our journalists, whether “professional,” or “citizen.”

There are six corporations that own all of the major media outlets in the United States: General Electric, News-Corp, Disney, Viacom, Comcast (formerly Time Warner), and C.B.S. As a result, the content, direction, and substance of our major media outlets are centrally controlled by few. The journalists of these stations are tricked into thinking that they are doing America good deeds by selling stories to them and filling their air time with a divisive political agenda: Left vs. Right, Democrat vs. Republican, Good vs. Evil, and so on and so forth. This type of irresponsible reporting creates a hostile environment in the United States by applying group thoughts to the general public. Glenn Greenwald (The Guardian), the journalist who broke Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency (N.S.A.) mass surveillance, received inflammatory remarks from media outlets such as NBC (Comcast), and Fox News (News-Corp). These were also the stations that “fuelled the debate” of whether or not Edward Snowden was a traitor or a hero instead of asking legitimate questions like what the legitimacy is of the surveillance programs. Thanks to the support of the American public and the international community, the news outlets have backed off on their initial condemnation and have supported Snowden as a hero. Part of that transition in sentiment was the revelation from Snowden’s leak that the N.S.A. was spying on the Associated Press’ (A.P.) reporters to find where they were getting story leaks from.

The Committee to Protect Journalists discovered that it is next to impossible to keep sources confidential with the way the Justice Department seized A.P.’s metadata records, according to GlobalResearch.org. The report details the N.S.A.’s ability to retrace a journalist’s research processes and locate sources by tracking past communications and website history. This is a direct violation of the protection of the journalist’s sources. The minute that confidentiality is compromised is the moment that the U.S. Constitution is in danger. A journalist needs the right to keep his or her sources confidential in order to be that seeing-eye dog for the public; the journalist is the victim’s way out if they cannot talk to investigators because the crimes are so corrupt.  I would trust a journalist to keep my information safe if I needed to report an incident that is way out of my control. How would I be able to stay safe knowing that every word I say to him is being recorded and stored in a database in an unknown place? I wouldn’t. What are we supposed to do to remedy this?

Abby Martin’s (RT USA) advice to Americans and others around the world that want to make a difference and help change the society we live in is: become a citizen journalist. Citizen journalism is becoming more and more popular in the United States and across the world with the advent of the internet’s social media. Any incident that happens and any news story that needs to be written will be found on social media. This is a tool that is imperative to a free population because it engages everyday citizens in the events happening today in our country. In a world of uncertain political circumstances, it is essential that the population is involved with their surroundings.

Opponents to citizen journalists, like Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), attempt to divide the average citizen on the issue, claiming that citizen journalists are not “real” journalists. According to Truth-Out.com, she proposed an amendment that limits the definition of “journalist” to those that the diplomats consider to be “real journalists.” This is very dangerous. Remember the six corporations I was talking about? Only journalists that are contracted under a specific news outlet would be allowed to report the news. It is intimidating — to say the least – that our own legislature would even consider infringing on the First Amendment in such a way. The bill would thereby incriminate anyone the state does not consider a real journalist. This is one of the reasons why we need citizen journalists – to expose stories of perverse state infringement on our rights. Michael Hastings was someone who the legislature would consider a “real journalist,” and he was fixing on exposing corruption in the Obama administration when he was mysteriously killed. What does that say about a state-controlled media?

Michael Hastings’ death was a shock to the journalism community around the world. His death will not be in vain because he has set the example for all journalists to follow the story – no matter what the cost. Some people may say that the press is out of hand and journalists are not “as responsible” as they used to be, but perhaps the American people should change what we consider real journalism to the journalists that report stories based off of facts, not embellished stories based off of what some people consider facts. This type of transition will save our Freedom of the Press: a right that is slowly degrading, but is not gone. It is up to everyone to protect it.

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Spiritual Freewrite (December 2013)

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“The Koran is yours, the Bible is yours, so is the Talmud, and so are the Vedas and the Tao Te Ching — all is yours. Assimilate all, and the more you assimilate the higher will be the peak on which you can stand and look far away, and distant lands and distant views become yours” – Osho

The more I read these kinds of works, the more I grow to understand what spirituality really means. I’ve been thinking a lot about the history of the world, evolution, creation, and the Bible lately since coming across my journal and reading all of the things I said to condemn religion. My father used to make my little brother and I read directly from the Bible when we were on our way to martial arts and back. My favorite story was the Book of Job. I felt Job, and I related to Job, and sometimes when times get rough, I think about Job. I love Job so much because he persevered through all of the bullshit that was thrown at him and was able to forgive the people who wronged him along the way. His wife and his friends told him to curse God, but he did not because he knew that it was not God that was doing these things to him. He was wise to see the lesson in his shortcomings. Ok, bear with me here as I get preachy and read this all the way through ’cause there’s a lot of God in this. No pun intended.

The way this book was written is interesting in itself. It was written in prose, now, the prose enthusiast knows that prose is a type of poetry that is to be interpreted by the reader. The poet, in this case, has a certain theme he wants to portray to the reader. Different religions see the theme of Job in different ways, and I think that they try to analyze and interpret it so much based off of opinions that have been set forth for thousands of years, that they miss the beauty in the poetry. Now begs the question, what IS Job’s story really all about?

I’ve heard people call Job the representation of suffering. Christians and Jews hold that God “allowed” Satan to do all of these things to Job to “test” his faith, somehow suggesting that God wanted Job to suffer. The suggestion of God wanting Job to suffer has been a central point in contradicting the Bible to atheists and related religions; if God was all knowing and loving, why would God allow his greatest “servant” to suffer? To them, that sounds like a controlling unloving God who does not care for his “servant.” To me, that sounded like a controlling and unloving God because that is how I was taught to interpret this poetry. I was taught, “This is the way it is and that is that.” So, obviously, I rejected the Bible altogether. Why would I want to associate with a God that ALLOWS Satan to torture the man who loved him most?

Here’s a crazy thought: GOD DID NOT ALLOW SATAN MAKE JOB SUFFER! Since when does Satan take orders or consult God before doing anything? The poetry was written as conversation between God and Satan, which led people to believe that God basically “ordered” Satan to make all of these horrible things happen to Job to try to get him to turn away from God. Wrong. God did not stop Satan until he believed Job could not take it anymore. Until he believed Job couldn’t take it anymore. Until he believed Job couldn’t take it anymore. Just wanted to make that point clear. He KNEW Job and he KNEW Job could handle it because he CREATED Job. If God made told Satan to do these things to Job, then that would mean that GOD made a PACT with the DEVIL! Does that sound familiar? Why do some religions portray it as a pact? Satan does whatever the fuck he wants and can take over at any time. God cannot control Satan because Satan is the Fallen Angel. Some may say that God can control Satan because God is all knowing and powerful and created Satan, but I do not believe this is true.

Here’s where the craaaaaziness comes in. So, let’s define some things real quick to make this an easier explanation: God, – the guiding force in our lives that allows us to pull through bad situations and accomplish our dreams. Satan – the thing that keeps us back from doing that. Man – the extension and physical form of God, God’s children.

“God” is the energy in which humans create to do good and take care of others. This is the thing that makes us charitable, reasonable, wise, and logical. It is just defined as one word, “God.” As Osho says, “… the more you assimilate the higher will be the peak on which you can stand and look far away…” ALL RELIGIONS HAVE ONE CENTRAL THEME! EVEN! The religions of the past. Man has something in him that makes him divine, and that is what we have all grown to try to define. This is what preachers mean when they say, “God is in our hearts,” and “God is inside every one of us.” It’s true because God is not a singular being that is located in a certain place like “heaven.” You know, the idea of heaven is great, but the thought that it is an actual and physical place is a little silly, given the vastness of the Universe in it’s wonder. Now when I read anything religious, I replace the word “God” with “Universe” because it makes more sense to me that way. We are all Godly. That sounds crazy, right? Actually, what might sound more crazy to the people who have known me for a long time is that I’m talking like this. Which brings me to the subject of Satan.

Satan represents the duality of mankind. Satan was an angel that fell, and was created by God. Since Satan did, indeed, fall, and chose to fall, and CHOSE TO REJECT GOD, I think Satan is, arguably, the most important character in the Bible. He is the one that makes us lose our judgement, fall into temptation, live a life of crime, and he is also the one that makes us overindulge in our senses. He is the one that God cannot control because he is the one who chose to reject God, and this is why MAN is an extension of GOD because humans have a part of them that they cannot control either. I think that this is the most important lesson that Satan represents. In the case of Job, Satan manipulated Job’s life to have all of these horrible things happen to him. Did it ever occur to anyone that Job was actually fooled the entire time into believing that God was the one who was testing him? God did not choose to test him, Satan did. But Job, his family, and his friends constantly refer to God as the one who is testing him, and that represents the vulnerability of a great man of the Universe. He was tricked. But even though Job was tricked and vulnerable, he was strong in that he kept the energy that drives him to keep on moving forward and never giving up. That is why Job is so endearing to anyone who hears the story, he never gave up.

Men never give up (I’m speaking in general terms, not just male), and the reason men never give up is because there is divinity in all of us. Job was the epitome of divinity in his devotion to the Universe, but he still suffered. I do not think Job is the representation of suffering, I think Job is the representation of all that we go through in life, and WHEN WE CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE! We often overcome these feelings through the help of our own energy — our own being, perseverance, and conviction. This is what “God” is, and this is the phenomena of “hitting rock bottom,” then succeeding. We as humans have powerful capabilities, and we are divine creatures, but we have created our own divinity. Since we are “godly,” we should act as such, as men who have a great connection with THEMSELVES and therefore have a great connection with this energy we describe as “God.” This is where Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed come in, but I’ll save that bit for a later religious analysis because I think I have exercised my point in great detail already.

Ah, if my former self could only hear the words of the latter.

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Real Immigration Reform (Winter 2014, Eng 100, featured as class example)

liberty

“Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” are the words every American hears and feels a sense of pride, because these are also the words that our fellow men in other countries, “yearning to breathe free,” know our country by. From the original native immigrants to the vikings to Christopher Columbus and the Mayflower, America has always been a nation built off of the dedication of our ancestors wanting to build a freer life for their children. It seems that in this modern day, some Americans have forgotten our accepting roots and others have over-embraced it. How do we find a middle ground?

The problem in our immigration policies in America today is that there is too much government involved. Americans hold on to the federal government as a crutch to lean on when we get tired, all the while forgetting that we could not lean on this crutch during the American revolution for a reason. With the federal government out of the picture, states will be able to decide for themselves what to do with the immigrants. As a result, immigrants will have a choice as to which state they will be able to immigrate to.

The two states with the most different immigration policies are California and Arizona. California just passed a law that will give illegal immigrants a driver’s license, and wants to pave the way for a more “immigrant friendly” state. Arizona has had talk of building a 100 foot wall across the border and deadly force authorized for anyone who wishes to cross, and recently passed a law that will charge illegal immigrants with trespassing just for being on Arizona soil. These two states obviously represent each side of the immigration argument, and will eventually prove which method works the best. By giving both of them the right to do with their border as they please, it will provide a more “people-of-the-country” oriented governance and will show which immigration policy works best for both economical and sociological aspects of the immigration argument.

Arizona loses around $3 million each year, and California’s general fund spends around $10.5 billion annually on legislation related to illegal immigration. The federal government spent $18 billion in 2012 alone on illegal immigration, a cost that is 75% greater than both California and Arizona combined. With all three of those government entities, the cost for illegal immigration adds up to a whopping $31.5 billion. By telling the federal government to go away and leave immigration matters to the states, it will save the American tax payer $18 billion alone. With the economy on the brink of collapse and the tax payer stretched to find resources for themselves, this would take away a small, but important cost to Americans and our children. This sounds great and all, but if the federal government was not involved in the immigration process, how would anyone become a United States citizen?

California’s driver’s license initiative will allow immigrants to establish a residency and enough documentation to work in the state of California. This path will lead to the availability of citizenship applications for all immigrants while they work to support their family. The influx of immigrants will force California to adjust its oppressive small business certification laws in order to allow for more businesses to open up, thus allowing more jobs to be created. In order to not face an imminent economic meltdown due to Arizona completely locking up the border, there would be no way the California legislature could not adjust their laws to allow more business creation. This would make California the pro-immigration and pro-small business state, and lead the way to a more innovative America.

There is no doubt that cultural diversity allows for a greater knowledge and wisdom as to how the world works. America has been the “melting pot” of the world for this reason, and we take great pride in our diversity. Why should an imposing government decide how we deal with the men we share our land with? If you are an individual who is able to apply your skills to help the community, why should you be barred from doing so? If there is a state who does not want workers to help the community, then why should they be forced to take them? Ultimately, whether you are skilled, or willing to learn a skill, accepting everyone we share the world with makes us a greater species – ones who are able to think outside of our realm and connect with our fellow men. It is insulting that an “all knowing” government has the right to decide that one person is more deserving than another to live on this land. As long as we separate ourselves from one another with labels such as “legal” and “illegal,” we fail to recognize that that family of eight might very well need that job the father got while standing outside of Home Depot. It takes away the human aspect of our characters, something that is very dangerous for an entire population to do.

There are a few different ways to view immigration, but I think that the ultimate way to view it is as a part of human nature. We have and always will be a nomadic species, and dealing with this instinct will forever be a challenge. My solution is to stop trying to control it, and just let it run its course. We should not have to spend our time and resources on stopping an animal instinct. Stop spending our great-grand children’s future on getting people to stay in or out of our country, because we are not going to be around to watch them suffer as they try to pay off the deficit that was started long before we were even born. We are Americans: the most adaptable people in the world. Let’s stay that way.

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The Case Against Government Constructed Roads (Domestic Policy Essay, Fall 2013, PoliSci 102)

muhroads

As you were driving down the freeway to work, you ran over that same rough spot every morning to get off at your exit. Today is different; one of your tires had enough and blew out on you. As you are accepting the situation you are in, your mind starts to wander: “If only the roads were better constructed, that would solve part of the problem.” You pull over, get out and get your emergency gear, “I wonder who paid for this freeway anyway…” It hadn’t occurred to you at the time that part of the pay check you were making at the job you were driving to went to the very same road that partly caused your bad morning. You paid for it by being taxed. The solution to the degeneration of our roadways is the privatization of the funding of roads. The privatization of roads will provide more efficiency for the main source of transportation in America.

As it stands right now, the construction of roads is based on city, county, and state needs. The funding comes from the state budget which is paid for by American tax payers. During the emergence of the affordability of the automobile, in the 1920’s, America started to need national freeways which the Department of Agriculture took over. This was with the help of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) which was created in 1924 to help the advancement of investors in the national freeway business to get these freeways built. The Great American Freeway System was eventually established by channels through the Department of Agriculture and the corporations that were supplying the materials and labor.

During this time, the average citizen was not particularly concerned with the freeways because their $250.00 car often times could not make it across country with the way they were built. The roads were often so horrible that you could barely drive on them as they were, and were rarely routinely maintained. Businesses should have invested in a consulting/planning department for their corporations. This would make it so the federal government would not have had to pass laws to regulate the freeway construction, planning (to include safety and directional signs) and maintenance of the freeways. Essentially, what the government has over the road infrastructure is a monopoly because of this. The corporations should have been held accountable by the consumer to maintain the roads that were being built, they would not have had to deal with the inconvenience of government planning, thus relieving the need for tax payers’ money to be used on public transportation. The government even got in the way during the 2011-2012 Holiday season in Los Angeles when Governor Jerry Brown needed to use his legislative powers to waive statutes of the law that were hindering the rebuilding process of an overpass that was damaged when a tanker truck exploded. This is just one example of how regulatory laws hinder the maintenance, and an example of why it is hard for the freeway system to technologically advance.

During modern times, people rely on their cars just as much as our ancestors valued their horses. The roads we drive on are how we get to work, drop off our kids at school, and see our family and friends. We rely on their advancement and success. One modern example of the success of the privatization of roads is The Toll Roads of Orange County. They were built during a time that the state budget was low and with virtually no tax dollars available. This proves that the state has the ability to coordinate roads being built without tax payer burden.

The state proved to be unessential in the creation of the California SR-73, and even though the state still provided the central planning and induced a toll on the road, it is one of the first steps into getting the government funding out of the construction of our beloved freeways. This type of privatization allows for investors and entrepreneurs to explore and test the way freeways are designed. We may even realize that we do not need freeways at all, and the exploration of the design of freeways could lead to the implementation of more efficient transportation systems via the consumer. The consumer funds the projects and gets the results. The key to freeway technological advancement is to eliminate the government third-party control to speed up the construction and induce routine, efficient, maintenance that caters to the consumers who use it.  This would mean, however, that the average citizen would have to be more involved in his or her local and state community if they wanted something done, which would not be such a bad thing. It would stop the media from skewing the public’s perception on the role the government has with our freeways.

The American media does not usually touch on this subject unless it has to do with a tax increase. CNN, Fox, and MSNBC often rally behind the government inclusion in the construction of our roads to make it “safer.” In fact, if you typed “roads taxes” into Google News, you will find that the majority of the articles that were written about roads and taxes were about tax increases, and sometimes hiding them as tolls. Tolls would be a great idea if the budget for the transportation was not in the “infinite” amount of money the government has to spend. If a toll was a way to make a profit and it benefitted the consumer because the road was more efficient due to better maintenance and technology advancement, then a toll would be a good idea, especially if there were other private roads competing to bring the price down. Some young people are starting to understand this concept in depth and standing up against the old-timer status quo. The younger the American is, the more skeptical he or she normally is of government endeavors such as our roads. This will lead to future policy changes, and hopefully take this government monopoly out of American culture.

The bigger picture of this issue is the amount of control our government has over the roads we use every day. The construction business could just as easily be a service like an electrical business. We are constantly plagued by inconvenience during our travels, whether it is a construction job moving slowly or a pot hole that has been there for over a year. The government has had control over the roads and freeways for far longer than most of us have been alive. The people who advocate government control over roads tend to think that no one else is capable of planning out road routes because the government has always been in control. Despite the fact that politicians constantly use the roads as a facade to raise taxes, people never question when their governments are engaging in these things because they believe it is a part of public works. Perhaps it is time for a new age of technological growth where the government takes a step back, and cuts transportation funding out of the budget.

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U.S. Drone Matrices as a Result of Ineptitude and Capital (Fall 2013, PoliSci 102)

drones

On May 22, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to Chairman of the Committee of the Judiciary, Congressman Patrick J. Leahly (D-VT), releasing the names of four American citizens that were exterminated by a United States via an armed unmanned aerial aircraft: a “predator” drone. Anwar al-Aulaqi was the target of United States military “counterterrorism operations outside of areas of active hostilities,” as Attorney General Holder described it, and had been affiliated with al-Qa’ida, which justified the drone attack. However, there were three other American citizens who were not the “specific target” that were killed as well. Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aluaqi, and Jude Kenan Mohammed were the three unfortunate victims of the United States’ drone policy. The interesting and controversial usage of these drones raises the question of the writ of habeas corpus; did the U.S. have the Constitutional authority to kill one American citizen as a target and three as “collateral damage” without bringing them to a judge or jury? This is just one of many examples of how U.S. foreign drone policy affects the entire world.

The United States has been using drones in Afghanistan as early as 2000; it was not until 2002 that the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) used a drone to kill American enemies. According to The Nation, the target specified in this sensitive attack was Osama bin Laden, and this attack was the first time that a drone had been used in a C.I.A. operation vice military support. Once the C.I.A. had realized that their target was not Osama bin Laden, they claimed that they did not know who it was. This raises the question of predator drone legitimacy due to the fact that the individual that was targeted in the attack was unidentified. Journalists pursued the story and indentified the individuals that were killed. The man killed, Daraz Khan, was 5’11” — taller than the average Afghanistan citizen — and was collecting bomb fragments from an American bomb strike, which is the reason why he was targeted. One question civil rights activists ask is whether the allegation of height was great enough to kill a man; as John Sifton, journalist for The Nation, puts it, “I am also 5 feet 11, and at around the same time period I spent time foraging for bomb fragments in remote locations in Afghanistan… Perhaps I could have been mistaken for bin Laden too.” This is just one example of U.S. drone policies before President Obama took office. Drone strikes did not necessarily become an international debate until around 2009, when the president took office.

President Obama took office in the middle of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and as of 2012, authorized 283 drone strikes in Pakistan alone. According to Peter Bergen, a National Security Analyst for CNN, this is six times more than the total amount of drone strikes used during George W. Bush’s entire presidency; he says that the death toll, including civilians, ranges anywhere from 1,494 to 2,618. The bottom line is, no one is really sure how many have died due to these strikes, which begs to question how the strikes are decided in the first place. The decision to strike is based off of a policy called the “disposition matrix.” Greg Miller from the Washington Post reports that the matrix includes a list of targets, the resources being used to track them down to include “sealed indictments and clandestine operations.” Many people are split on this policy, and the controversy has created a sharp divide in opinion.

Opponents of this matrix claim that we cannot simply kill people based off of the fact that they do not pose an immediate threat. Proponents claim that the security of the United States is at stake if we do not eliminate potential terrorists. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the members of Congress who has greatly supported the drone policy in the U.S., he has stated, “We’ve killed 4,700. Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken some very senior members of al-Qai’da.” What Senator Graham does not take into account is that the drone strikes that kill the most people have been in countries we are not at war with: Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Many supporters in the U.S. use the “we are at war” claim throughout the media, government, and American people, and this seems to be the “bottom line” as far as support goes. Israel and the U.S. support the drone strikes at 64% and 61% approval rating respectively. There are not many concrete international supporters of this policy by any country due to the high amount of human rights violated by these “matrix” strikes. The opponents greatly outweigh proponents on a global scale. Russia, arguably America’s greatest competitor for world power, disapproves of the United States policy on drones at 68%. Venezuela, Greece, and Egypt top the disapproval rating at 91%, and 89%, respectively. This is particularly interesting due to Venezuela’s anti-American foreign policy sentiment and the country’s involvement in our political atmosphere, and all three of those countries do not approve of much of what the U.S. does internationally.

The “bottom line” in the opposition of this global disapproval is the absence of the writ of habeas corpus. The Constitution of the United States defines habeas corpus as the right to be brought before a judge and jury. The way Khan and the others were killed displayed the loss of a jury – arguably, the most important aspect of the judiciary system. In America, the jury has the right to nullify a law if it is immoral or wrongly applied. If Khan was an American citizen charged with collecting debris, a jury has the power to nullify the charges which it believes are wrong. Since collecting debris is a victimless crime, Khan would not have been charged under jury nullification. Khan did not get that right when he was arbitrarily exterminated in his own country, and neither did the others that were killed. However, Khan was not an American citizen, and many claim that he did not deserve a jury simply because he is not American. “The Constitution does not apply in this case,” many Americans bring up this point, but that does not include the four individuals that the American government admitted to killing. Where was their jury? Why did they not get the opportunity to sit in front of a jury of their peers and have their case heard? The problem with these drone strikes is the use of violence against people who do not necessarily deserve it.

As long as we are at war, there will always be justification for unnecessary violence, and the solution to this violent problem is the absence of the use of force. American citizens need to come together to stop this violence across the globe. We should not allow the extermination of anyone, whether they are American citizens or not. It often seems that the leaders who always to believe we are always in grave danger seem to push pro-drone agendas on us via the media. I always feel like our country as a whole is under constant fear of being attacked. When a child lives in a home and feels like they are going to be attacked all of the time, what does that say about the parents? The parents are most likely creating an environment which the child feels afraid of by the actions that the parent takes. In this case, the American government (parents) always says that “we need to make America safer,” and the American people (children) look to the government for security. With the perpetual drone strikes on nations that we are not at war with, the view of America being a great place becomes smaller and smaller by the citizens of those countries. The anti-American sentiment often times has to do with the government’s decisions in their foreign policies; therefore the government is creating a hostile world for Americans to live in. It is ironic because we constantly look to the government for security, to protect us against bad people, but a lot of those bad people are the same ones who say that they are trying to protect us! This is a contradiction I will never understand. We are not making American safer by killing thousands of people in other countries who did not even attack us and we are not even at war with. We should be using drones to better the free market and the individual, not harm others.

In conclusion, although drones are used for horrific acts of war, drones are not all negative killing machines. Some of them allow journalists to capture the stories that they would not have been able to get without it. Nature documentaries use them to capture never before seen footage of the animals we share the world with. They can be used to provide readings on air quality. Maybe companies can use drones to deliver a package, which means that they can be used to carry medical supplies to people who find themselves in an emergency as well. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to be in the world.” America wants nations to be peaceful and open to trade, but we should not use predator drones to bomb the people who we think are going to hurt us. There is danger everywhere in life, and the best way to keep danger out of America is by treating others the way we want to be treated. It is time to stop bombing other countries with drones, and time to start trading with countries using drones.

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