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FREEDOM! by Adam Kokesh — A Philosophical Manifesto for the Abolition of Violence

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When I was serving in the Marine Corps, I dealt with plenty of moral and philosophical challenges due to the violent nature of the organization that I eventually had to learn to deal with on my own. Prior to joining, I still felt that there was a place for governments: a military is needed for defense, and a small government was needed to prosecute criminals, both should be efficient and moral. As I went through boot camp, I quickly realized the ethical error in my decision to join, but I had to search high and low throughout my service for the solution to this error.  I had to reject the brainwashing inhibited to me throughout my training, and I had to re-study the information I’d previously retained that was lost in the psychological mind-ruling of the United States Marine Corps. Throughout my studies, Murray Rothbard, Lysander Spooner, and Ludwig von Mises helped me begin to break out of my patriotic mind-set, and begin to assess the real nature of government: violence against the individual. Even though such great literary works by these authors helped me the most, I wish that I had a book like FREEDOM! by Adam Kokesh to help me along the way, but unfortunately, it was just a mere sparkle in his eye during this time. However, having the prior knowledge that I did made me realize the importance of the book while I was reading it, and I was able to come to an even greater understanding of what the principle of non-aggression, as a inhibitor of true freedom, is.

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Just A Dream

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A bright Light on my shoulders;
a Rainbow down my back.
The Strength of a Reptile,
and the Wings of a Bat
with Humanity on its back:
has the Lion on its Conscience,
Healing the demons Within.
Flying into the Sun,
and the World will know Peace.

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Money in War: Research into the Life of Just One Financial Marine (Part I)

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September 11th, 2001; I turned 10 years old a few months prior and had just started fifth grade. They didn’t show the news coverage in my school for a long time, and my teacher had to do it without permission. I remember a cloudy feeling of doom: our country was plunging into war. What was going to happen? I learned about the Revolutionary War — the war against an oppressive government; the Civil War — the war of the federal government against the states; and Vietnam — the war we never “won.” What would this new war be against? A new word started appearing everywhere, “terrorism.” Something just wasn’t right. “How long will we be at war?” I thought, “Hopefully not that long. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as Vietnam.”

13 years later, I am almost 23 years old. I have lived over half of my life during a war time. This War on Terror has been the longest war fought in United States history. I had countless battles throughout my childhood wondering what the place of war is in our lives. As a child, coming to grips with the fact that the government you were taught to believe was there to protect you was all of a sudden using our children as martyrs for the sake of “democracy.” It was a confusing time, and over the years, I have grown to understand just what the costs of war are, and these are costs that no one should be willing to pay.

In 2009, the economy was recovering from an economic collapse, AKA “The Great Recession.” (Isidore) I graduated from high school that May. You can guess how many jobs there were out there for an 18-year-old high school graduate with writing and sandwich making skills, a knack for violence and a bunch of family problems. After attempting to make it out on my own in Alaska, only to be sabotaged by unfortunate circumstances, I joined the Marine Corps.

I arrived in Parris Island, South Carolina on January 25th, 2010. It was there that I began my journey being trained to do nothing but accomplish the mission and destroy the enemy. Marine Corps boot camp is one of the most psychologically stressful events in the world. There, you are broken down as an individual and built back up as a perfectly molded soldier, ready to take any order given. There have been studies done by the military on the psychological effects of boot camp. What the top psychologists do to the individual recruit, in warfare, is called attrition: the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure. There are many factors that tie into the effectiveness of Marine Corps attrition, such as the recruit’s socioeconomic background, coping mechanisms, defense mechanisms, and other forms of adaptation to stress. They extract and manipulate psychological information about every recruit, and exploit weaknesses by almost any means necessary. The first 24 hours of boot camp are essential to establishing instant willing obedience to orders which carries on into Basic Warrior Training (BWT), which is where I believe most of the brainwashing occurs, but I do not remember those times.

The first time I knew I could not resist the brainwashing that was happening to me in boot camp was after we had been taught how to properly shoot our rifles on the range: BWT. As females, this was often the first time many of us had been exposed to warrior training. It consisted of two weeks: indoctrination and application. The most important week was week one: we were marched into a large theater with our brother male battalion under high stress. I didn’t understand why our drill instructors were acting the way they were during this time. They seemed angrier, which just added to the stress and confusion of boot camp all together. I do not remember the first week very well. The only part I remember during that time is the Combat Hunter video we watched. Combat Hunter is a course given to Marines to make them effective at doing just what the title insinuates: how to hunt other humans perceived to be a threat to the mission. There were speakers who taught us land navigation, battlefield operations, and weapons management, but I can’t recall any of the classes.

In between each speaker, we were forced to stand up straight and scream Marine Corps “knowledge” at the top of our lungs. These were things such as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, weapons safety rules, general orders, etc. It really hit me what was going on when we were told to relax and watch a video which gave us a general overview of what Combat Hunter is, then I started to fall asleep. My battle buddy smashed my arm with her fist and before I knew it, the video was over. Our drill instructors were told to relax as some higher ranking officers came in to speak to us about the video we just watched. Shortly afterwards, we marched out onto the old flight deck and lined up to stare into the tree line of the South Carolina forest. We were looking for suspicious objects in the tree line with our binos (binoculars), and to my amazement, I found every single one of them they set up. “Wow,” I thought, “What has happened to me?” That was just a pale fraction to the amount of psychological stress that the recruit endures to adopt the Marine Corps warrior mindset. Some Marines do not even remember boot camp and their other training. Combat training in the School of Infantry is just another monster added to the shaping of the United States Marine. This is the time where we are made to follow orders, and that’s what I did.

After combat training (see details of combat training in Money in War Part II) came our Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) School where I was trained as a financial technician to credit and check miscellaneous amounts of money from individual service members in the interest of the United States Treasury. It was there that I finally learned what it is that financial Marines do overseas. During our initial brief, Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Jones was assigned to our classroom to give a brief on what finance Marines do when we were deployed. He described an incident which happened while he was in Iraq that really opened up my eyes as to how the wars in America are funded.

One of the responsibilities of finance Marines while deployed overseas is to complete monetary contracts with the local villagers. The most common form of contract is for restitution of destroyed property. I’ve heard of $2,000 being paid for a single goat being destroyed in a firefight. Another form of contract is the “humanitarian” contract. This is where CWO Jones comes in. He described a contract in which he and his men had to form a patrol over to a nearby village’s school to form somewhere between a $50,000 and $100,000 contract. This money was intended to provide electricity and running water to the school. I’m assuming that since the amount of the contract was over a certain dollar amount, the team had to follow up to ensure the money was being used for what it was intended for.

The man who signed the contract had disappeared. CWO Jones and his men got a call to inspect a hose that was nearby the school that had been reported by a sympathizing villager to be suspicious. They went to the house, kicked down the doors, herded the women and children into a sectioned off area, and found a house full of automatic weapons. “We can only assume what happened to that man at the school,” he said, “but that’s war. That’s what you’re here for.” What CWO Jones did not take into consideration is that he did not join the Marine Corps to personally fund the enemy he was supposed to fight against, and I did not think it was possible for him to understand that. I understood that, though, and the decision that I made of joining the military really began to sink in.
Financial Marines are the foot soldiers in the funding of these wars. There are missions assigned to us that consist of entering the United States Treasury vault, removing pallets of money, sending it on a helicopter, getting the transfer form signed, and that individual Marine does not know where that money went. Here’s the thing, though, someone does. Any amount of money being removed from or inserted to a government institution has been recorded in the money database systems of the government. There is a trace (whether electronic or hard copy) of every financial transaction ran in the United States of America — it’s just a matter of finding out where it is.

Every form of financial authority is recorded in some long, boring manual with every piece of financial knowledge in there for you to conceive. These financial transactions are governed by the Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation, a manual compromised of every financial authority in the Department of Defense. Every branch of the military studies this manual, and each section that is referenced is divided by the financial specialty. The DoDFMR is so large that it is impossible to know all of the information contained in all of the volumes unless you’re The Rain Man or something. My point is that there is no possible way for the Department of Defense to know exactly where all of these financial transactions are located.

I sat through a financial regulation stand down where a top Colonel was giving announcements on certain system functioning changes and pay systems manual updates. He happened to mention that the administrators who created the system we use to fund our troops and military operations cannot be audited. That means that there is no possible way to keep track of all of the financial transactions processed by the Department of Defense. This also means that these financial transactions have little accountability. What does that say for the other, larger branches? As a platoon, we had fairly efficient ways of keeping track of financial transactions, but ultimately some just end up missing or being incorrect for long periods of time. This is due to the inflation of financial transactions processed during a war time.

When a Marine is stationed overseas, he can make anywhere from $450.00 – $700.00, sometimes almost $1,000 more dollars per month being stationed in a combat zone or hazardous duty location (HDL) (APSM). An HDL, as distinguished from a combat zone, would be an area with an increased rate of violence that the United States is not at war with, such as Libya or Egypt in 2012. (DoDFMR, 7a). These entitlements have to be adjusted every time the Marine travels from country to country. A lot of these transactions are ran through administrative units which were so unreliable that a lot of times Marines got overpaid or underpaid whatever monetary amount the manuals had instructed. These failed oversights resulted in individual service members owing the federal government hundreds to thousands of dollars.

I was in charge of writing the denial endorsement for every Marine that requested a waiver of this debt that had not been wounded in combat. There was an instance of a PFC Cocoa who paid child support every month. He had been receiving an entitlement to cover the child support amount that was incorrect, resulting in a total debt/overpayment for this PFC of around $12,000 with a $300 monthly liquidation on this debt at less than $800 biweekly and $200 to pay in child support. In his grievance letter, he said that he could not afford gas money to go and see his daughter because all of the money he was spending was on uniform items and left him with barely enough money to sustain his life. Oh yeah, and he was in the infantry too. His waiver was denied because a brand new PFC to the fleet should “have reasonably known” that he was not entitled to the money he received, even though he asked his superiors several times about the money he was getting. That was not even the half of it. I’ve seen countless Marines fall into the indebted hands of the United States government and have been afraid to leave the service because the debt that they have to pay due to incorrect entitlements sometimes runs to tens of thousands of dollars. This is a system that oppresses and enslaves individuals by instilling indebted control over their lives.

What’s my point here? The point is that the military industrial complex is so large that the federal government cannot accurately take account for the money its’ spending because the system is too large, and therefore enslaves men by creating a monetary debt based off of clerical errors. Murray Rothbard, in his book entitled, Anatomy of the State, explains that one method the state has to maintain support is by creating vested economic interests. Since the state has the individual in debt, the individual feels as though he cannot escape the hands of the state because the debt will forever follow him. With veteran unemployment so low, a lot of active duty and reserve service members are intimidated into staying in the service because they believe their lives would be ruined if they did not have the government funds coming in to pay off their government debt. Let that sink in for a moment. Not only do service members get deployed overseas to kill men, women, and children in the name if economic interests of the few, they also run a high chance of being monetarily controlled by financial debt transactions that cause over payments to the individual.

Why do we fight in these wars that our children are being brainwashed in the name of national security to fight, send our children over to die in, and deal out our financial support that may just end up stuck in a database somewhere and is never accounted for? We deal out humanitarian monetary contracts that end up in the hands of the enemy, thereby inadvertently supporting the enemy that our fellow men died while fighting against. These are the kinds of things that happen when governments are allowed to fight against other countries in the interest of international corporations. A large government creates an uncontrollable government. Hopefully in the coming years, our fellow men will learn to live voluntarily with one another, and that violence only exists if we allow it to.

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Standardization Undermines Our Abilities (On College Admissions)

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I remember my first day of high school very well.  All of the freshmen had to assemble in the theatre for an introduction to high school by the current seniors with the main message of: do your homework, pass your tests, and — more importantly — don’t mess up your GPA! For when your GPA is not up to the standard of your college of choice, you will never accomplish your dreams. Being the pink-haired, studded-vest, loud, fast music and ripped up jeans type of 14-year-old, I thought to myself, “I don’t need no high school prison telling me I won’t make it in life if I don’t get with the program and abide by their regulation.”

Later, I found out that even if I made good grades, if I didn’t pass the standardized tests which also rank me amongst my peers, I would have done all of that hard work for nothing. When you’re so young, what does that tell you? It made me feel like mistakes were not going to be forgiven, so why should I even try? A lot of my friends either felt the same way or got so anxious about their performance at school, that they could not fathom life being any other way. Grade point averages, standardized tests, and other forms of testing are methods which imply that the individual’s worth is based off of their performance compared to the likes of their peers and not based off of their individual abilities.

At the end of my freshmen year, my GPA was a whopping 1.7. I had a hard time recovering from living on the streets of California during the last months of the school year and did not have the time nor the ability to care about something as meaningless to me as a grade point average. Throughout the rest of my high school years, I was able to successfully raise my GPA to a barely-graduating rate of 2.7. That’s good enough to get into community college, sure, but I was under the impression that any university would look at my GPA and laugh — a waste of time. I felt like the actual number of my GPA did not show my character as much as the increase did, and I couldn’t understand why that would not be taken into consideration. It made me feel like I wasn’t going to amount to anything even though I was determined to be the best that I could be.

Needless to say, I didn’t do too well on the standardized tests either. You mean, I lose more points if I answer a question wrong than if I don’t answer it at all? What kind of conditioning is that? Not trying is better than trying? I felt like this same oppressive aspect was applied to the grade point average: if you make a mistake, you will be punished by not being as competitive in the college market. I believe “college market” should be used to describe college admissions and the relationship between college and student. The more higher-performing students they have, the more government subsidies they get and higher tuition they can charge. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and not everything about receiving a college education is bad at all — it’s how you get there that causes such financial and psychological problems. This is why it is important for higher learning education centers to not base admissions off of frivolous scores and averages, but off of the individual as a well-rounded being.

What our society has is a mental slavery to standardization — one that Slate.com claims to increase depression and anxiety in over 80% of students. It suppresses the individual by forcing different personalities into one classroom and teaching them as a group and not individual beings. Does this mean that every student should have one teacher? Well, as a mandate, that may not be plausible. The solution to this problem is to repeal compulsory laws of forced education, and to return education to a free and compulsory market where the individual is allowed to express himself and perform in manners which apply to his personal abilities. Such and education would  allow the individual to choose how he will be educated which will allow for greater self-awareness and a more intellectually and emotionally fulfilling society.

Contrary to popular belief, formal and public education has not been around forever. Humans have the capability to learn great things without the force of state mandates for every child to attend school. Perhaps these types of laws proved to be beneficial to some people at some point in history, but any long term regulation has adverse affects on the generations that come after the laws. As humans and our technology become more advanced, society should be able to adapt to its advances. It’s about time America rethinks its education system, and give it back to each individual and beautiful student.

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The Establishment-Social Media Love Affair

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In the conglomerated, up-and-coming internet world of 2003, a new website was introduced into my life: MySpace. Little did I know that this business was going to be the pioneer of an informational revolution. The news media portrayed MySpace as a disgusting, uncontrolled area of cyber space where teenage antics run amuck; save your sons and daughters from the creeps! The uncontrolled area of youthful expression is a danger to our society of good order and discipline! Do you remember those news reports? I do. The reason why these reports stuck out in my mind is because they portrayed a stark contrast to what I knew this new social media as. It was a place where I could express my thoughts, interests, and feelings to others, a place where I found new lifetime friends as well as the old and my favorite bands. Eventually, the older generation caught on, and with the advent of Facebook, social media took off. All of a sudden the news reports were changing. I started hearing, “Follow us on Twitter,” and “Like us on Facebook.” What happened? Society was changing, social media was becoming a huge part of our lives, and we were – and still are — learning how to adapt. The main issue that social media has faced within the last decade is privacy and government interference.

In the summer of 2013, Glenn Greenwald (The Guardian) reported the most important story of our lifetime: secret mass government surveillance across the globe perpetrated by the National Security Agency (NSA). Everyone in the world soon learned that all of the information they were sharing on the internet was under the prying eyes of an invasive government. Associated Press reporters, the Vatican, and multiple government officials around the world have been targets of wiretaps. Millions of innocent citizens’ private lives are unknowingly being invaded by the collection of unlimited amounts of metadata through social networking and other electronic communication for an uncertain amount of time. We can only speculate as to what they do with the data and report on the activities we have found to be true.

According to Russia Today, the NSA has the ability to use metadata to track and exterminate targets via unmanned aerial vehicles AKA drones. A former NSA employee confirmed that the methods used to locate and verify the target are untrustworthy and the agency hopes that the person on the other end is, indeed, “the bad guy.” They use geolocation to track the SIM card in the cell phone on a specific target. Why is this important to Americans if they are only using the predator drones overseas? After all, they’re only targeting the bad guys! The reason why it is important is because there have been reports of great inaccuracies in the pursuance of these predatory endeavors. Civilians have been wrongly killed with inaccurate data. With The National Review reporting on suspects being arrested due to domestic drone surveillance via the local police, inaccuracy in data is something that could land you wrongfully arrested. Police stations across the United States are considering or currently are using drones as a method of criminal surveillance – something that has the great potential of being inaccurate, or even worse, abused.

Early this month, Turkish citizens found themselves unable to access Twitter. They later found out that their government suspended the use of Twitter for an uncertain amount of time. I read a blog written by a Turkish citizen on WordPress.com saying that the only way he could access Twitter was through the posts he made on WordPress. Wouldn’t it be something if Americans found out that the United States government temporarily banned Twitter under the feign of “national security?” There are other governments in the world, such as China, who censor what is able to be posted on social media and therefore use it as a means to acquire control over the populations’ ability to express oneself. This would be a direct violation of the First Amendment if something similar were to happen in the United States.

The beauty of the social media is that it gives us a chance to connect with those likeminded to us that we would normally never be able to meet otherwise. It keeps us connected to the people across the world. One example is from 2012, when the Iranian nuclear weapons “scare” was happening. Israel and Iran were about to start World War III. A group of Israelis made a Facebook page called, “I heart Persians,” as a way to protest their governments pushing them into war. Iranians started doing the same thing. There was a huge public outcry on social media which resulted in tensions between the two countries to ease. It would not have been so easy to do that with the way Israel and Iran’s diplomatic relationship is had it not been for the public disdain of another war. How else would word have travelled and action been taken so quickly? There is a social revolution amuck, one that will greatly affect future generations to come.

Who has seen pictures of babies on Facebook? Everyone. We love to see pictures of our younger family members across the country, it is a great way to keep in touch with your loved one’s life. One thing I find unsettling is that I have watched children that I have never met before grow up on my Facebook. Some of my high school and Marine friends that I haven’t seen in years have had children, and I love seeing them, along with their parents, grow up. Here’s why it’s unsettling though: the children did not have a say in whether or not the information could be posted on the internet. It brings a whole new meaning to “embarrassing childhood photos.” I can’t help but think sometimes when I’m scrolling on the screen, “I wonder what they’re going to say when they find out the government has been keeping track of their parents’ metadata their entire lives and therefore know everything about them.” They know when your kids got sick, what makes them throw temper tantrums, makes them smile, their favorite toy was, how they reacted to important life situations. Do we really want strangers knowing all of that information? To me, that’s an operational security risk associated with life itself. With Facebook’s new eerily accurate face scanners that can only get more accurate over time, I think this is an issue that needs to be talked about. What rights do children have in objecting to the publication of their lives? I’d say complete control, only if they knew. That’s why parents need to be careful about what they post about their children as well as what they post about themselves.

It is important for all of us to take responsibility for not only what we post on the internet, but also for holding governments responsible for impeding on any privacy or freedom of speech. We would not let strangers go through our homes, so why would we entrust in a government which uses deadly force under possibly inaccurate circumstances or violates the trust of the American people by collecting and analyzing their information? Why would we allow them to censor our speech? We wouldn’t, but only if we were aware of it, something that is happening to more and more people across the globe. Social media has and will continue bring change to the world, and the just will always succeed.

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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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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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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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