Tag Archives: politics

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

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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)

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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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Domestic Terrorist or Political Activist – What’s the Difference? (Essay 2008, Genetically Stupid Magazine, The Stay Press Vol. 1, 16 years old)

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The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act (S.1959) is a widely unknown bill presented by Congress in early 2007. It is an abomination of our most precious right of them all: our right to freedom of speech. If you want your right to preach your beloved anarchy, socialism, communism, fascism or even just taking out the public officials and restoring our Republic, then it is strongly suggested that you look over this information at hand. Our liberties are at risk.

Violent Radicalization can be taken in many different ways, it seems that this bill is directed towards groups like the IRA, the neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, but if you read the description carefully, it does not describe specifically what kind of “groups or individuals” they are talking about.

“The term ‘violent radicalization’ means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence [the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs] to advance political, religious, or social change” – SEC. 899A. 15-19

It is understood that there is a problem with extremists going around having their way with people they hate because of their affiliation to extremist groups but then let’s think about the other morally good “extremist” groups such as Skinheads Against Racial Prejudices (SHARP), or Restore The Republic (RTR), the animal activists, the green activists, or even the Ron Paul Revolutionists. They will be persecuted once this law goes into effect.

Then you may wonder about how they’re going to persecute any political activists or writers like me. Not to worry, they have it covered in SEC. 899A. 20-22, and they call it Homegrown Terrorism.

“The term ‘homegrown terrorism’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

The problem here is the question of what is and is not “force.” One alarming dictionary definition is the “power to persuade.” Writing about the good of our country, protesting for the good of OUR country means we are a terrorist in the eyes of the government, and the worst part about it is that they are smart enough to know that since most of the US population either doesn’t know about this act or doesn’t care about it that they have all of the power. They know that people are too interested about what’s going on in American Idol, what the latest fashion is, or where the latest band is going rather than caring about their safety, their safety from their own government.

It seems now-a-days that everyone is a terrorist and that terrorists are everywhere but they never really say as to where they are getting these precautions from. They never say where they get their information from. Where are these terrorists they keep on talking about? Are they thieves? Are they drug fiends? What are they? We do not have anyone with bombs around their chests going into buildings and blowing them up. We do not have random militias set up around the United States to kill innocent civilians. That also raises another question… How come the “proles” of the United States do not question this?

Things keep on getting worse in this country. What happened to the America I grew up in? What happened to the American Dream that my hero Hunter S. Thompson once wrote about? It is being destroyed and the nation does not know it. Soon we will have to get Real ID cards, or “Enhanced Driver’s Licenses,” “Secure Social Security Cards,” and if we don’t, we will lose our right to travel or enter government facilities until we do. Our veterans are being labeled as terrorists… And a whole mess of other things I cannot begin to cover.

“We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear — fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts, or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist sympathizer.”- Hunter S. Thompson

Cassandra Kerkman

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