Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pride and tears

I have had many proud moments in my life; watching the five kids becoming successful adults, watching grand-kids grow, graduating from UCD, getting my masters, and many more.  Looking back there was a time I am extremely proud of because I put personal gain and personal safety aside for the betterment of this nation and this world.  I stood on the outside of marches to protect the marchers.  I tried to provide first aid during police riots.  I got tear gassed.  I got attacked for my beliefs as I got off a city bus, but did not fight back.  I was part of a movement that made a difference.  Most of my effort was to end wars of aggression, and war in general.  (My sacrifice was small compared to others.)

Most of my work was in the anti-war movement with much less being involved in the Civil Rights Movement.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed 8 days before my 14th birthday and that year I worked for the election of President Johnson.  That included work on the effort to get out the vote.  I did support the movement throughout my teen years, and am proud of my contribution.

Some things are better now than they were.  My office is almost all white, but not all white.  My manager, Mr Bhakta is expecting their first daughter and they are curious what she will look like because of their interracial marriage.  Those that clean the restrooms are not all black and Hispanic.  Things are a little better, but there is still much to do.

We changed the world, but in so many ways we failed.  As a kid I used to hear the jets and wonder if that was the one that carried the end of human life.  Now that jet flies too high to hear.  We are still the world's aggressor creating wars at will.  But, until recently voter right was a victory I thought would last.  Obama might have already lost this election because of the rise of Jim Crow voting laws.  Let me explain.

Especially in swing state there has been a coordinated effort to purge the voter roles of people likely to vote Democratic.  Much of this has been coordination through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Repeatedly in swing state after swing state you will hear that they are trying to eliminate voter fraud, and creating laws that will make it more difficult or impossible for low income, minority, and student voters from voting.  (Under the law currently being blocked by the Justice Department a gun permit is valid ID to vote in Texas but a student ID is not!)  Yet there is no evidence of wide spread voter fraud.  Let me expand. 
* Typical evidence is like this (
** "Sundland Park, New Mexico, reported May 17, 2012 - multiple arrests, including the town mayor, on voting fraud charges ..." There were two arrests, the vote was close, and charges included extortion.  It is possible that this election was won because of fraud, but two is not wide spread fraud.  Two is two.
** "How about Troy, N.Y., on Dec. 21, 2011? Four men - all town officials or Democratic Party operatives - were convicted of voting fraud charges."  Population over 850,000 and 4 arrested.
* I even heard someone use the fact that people who were added to the voter rolls when they got the drivers license and took themselves off the rolls somehow proves that these people were voting.
The reason they don't use real statistics is that even when an investigation is done they can't find the fraud.  It isn't there.  President Bush tried.  120 were charged and 86 convicted.  The US population is 313,894,000 so 0.00003% of the population was convicted.

Enough legal voters may have already been purged from the rolls, or will be unable to vote due to restrictive laws to swing the vote.  In Pennsylvania 25% of blacks have no photo ID.  As much as 10% of the population of the state might be disenfranchised by the voter ID law.  These are real provable numbers.  The election may already have been stolen.

I am proud that I, and many others put aside personal gain to try and improve our nation.  No one can take that pride away.  But, I literally cry when I think about how much of what we did has been undone over the years.  I grieve for the lives lost in war.  I grieve for our young men and women who will live their lives with the visions of death in the brains.  I grieve for the martyrs who died to bring the vote to everyone.  I grieve for those who will lose their vote for no good reason.  I grieve for the life of democracy slipping away in front of our eyes.

I am 62 years old.  I don't know how long I have to live; almost certainly somewhere between 62 seconds and 62 years.  Will I spend the rest of my life proud of what I have done, but grieving for what we are losing?  I'm not doing enough to prevent this, but I am doing something.  For me, for you, for your descendants, and for our nation I ask you to do something.  Individually it might not be enough, but our collective effort just might be enough. 

And to the parents: Please teach your kids that democracy requires participation both in the voting booth and in the streets.  Please teach your kids that their freedom is in part because people were willing to break the law, to be violently attacked, and to put their lives on the line in non-violent action.  Please remember that if your child is old enough to understand what they are doing, they are old enough to make a difference. But please, if the situation could get them hurt or killed, make sure they fully understand that before you let them go.

Friday, March 30, 2012

"...let Facts be submitted to a candid world."

"When in the Course of human events,..."

In this posting I will be leading you blindly on a path of thought. I hope you are willing to follow along. I will start with a history lesson.

All quotes ('' ") are from our Declaration of Independence. Other quotes are in italics.

The institution of corporation became part of British life before the colonization of the Americas. It was these corporations that permitted the rapid colonization of much of the world. In 1587 it was a corporation of the crown that colonized Virginia. The colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island were each governed by a "Governor and Company," incorporated by charter from the English crown. Our original colonies were corporations of the English crown.

Corporations then as now had certain human characteristic. They could buy and sell property. They could sue and be sued. The members of the corporation (stock holders) were separate, and could not be held libel for the dept of the corporation. Corporations were created with the blessing of the crown, and could be dissolved by the crown. Today in the U.S. incorporation is done at the state or federal level, and thus it could be said done with the blessing of that government.

Corporations then as now had to follow the dictates of the granting government. It was the corporate responsibility to uphold the dictates of the crown including taxation.

There was and is a legal separation between the corporations and the government, and a legal separation between the corporations and its members. But there was and is an interdependency between these three. Then as now the government grants the incorporation and is dependent upon the revenue. Then as now the corporations are funded by the members, and the members are dependent upon the profits.

" becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,..."

The power of England extended globally with corporations creating the expansion and governing over the new lands. The power was maintained though the military might of England. Thus when the colonies revolted they severed "the political bands" with England.

Today the global power of the Western World is dependent upon the corporate reach, but the government granting the corporation is no longer clear. I will use Shell Oil as an example.

Royal Dutch Shell is a corporation headquartered in the Hague, Netherlands. It is incorporated in London England. Under Royal Dutch Shell are these subsidiaries.

Shell Canada - headquarters are in Canada, but control is by Shell Energy North America. Shell Canada was created through a purchase done to gain access to unconventional resources such as tar sands oil.

Shell Gas & Power is the primary energy trading arm of Royal Dutch Shell doing business under Shell Trading and a subsidiary Coral Energy, LLC.

Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company
Shell Nigeria Gas
Shell Nigeria Oil Products
Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas
The Nigerian government has executed protesters that have protested against Shell. Shell claims that they asked the government for clemency for these protesters though there is evidence to the contrary.

Shell Oil Company headquartered in Texas is a 50/50 partner with the Saudi Arabian government-owned oil company Saudi Aramco in Motiva Enterprises.

Other subsidiaries include Shell Australia, Shell Chemicals, and Shell Pakistan

There is no one government granting the international corporation the right to exists. Though not exclusively the might of one single government protecting this right, the U.S. military is the largest in the world, and has the greatest reach.

Up to this point I have used verifiable facts to lay the foundation. Our global reach is created and dependent upon international corporations, and the international corporations are dependent upon the U.S. and other governments to protect that reach. Governments and investors benefit from corporate existence but are shielded by law from the responsibility of their actions. This has been true for centuries, but with the corporations going international there is a level of ambiguity as to which government can gain the benefit of the incorporation along or the power to dissolve it.

In the Revolutionary War we defeated the government that was protecting the governing corporations. Of all the governments world wide the U.S. and our military are the equivalent to the the English military. When "Object evinces a design (by corporations or the U.S.) to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government." Our Declaration of Independence gives the people of all nations the right and duty to expel U.S. troops, and to overthrow their own government should that government refuse. Cuba is a prime example of a people doing exactly that.

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism ..."

Until this point I have stayed with legal connections. There are moral connections. The investor holds a moral connection to the actions of the corporation, and the granting government also is moral tied to the actions of the corporation. Clearly the military actions of a government are moral decisions. And as citizens we are morally tied to the actions of our government. Because of the legal and moral connection between corporations and government I will be blurring the line.

I will try and show that our government and corporations are trying to reduce us to absolute despotism. I will show that the government and corporation colluded to destroy the middle class, that your every move is monitored, and that the powers will, if they desire, limit your movement, hurt you or kill you, all without trial.

Destruction of the middle class:

In February, 1987 Michael Moore reported on a meeting organized in part by the U.S. Commerce Department under President Reagan explaining to U.S. corporations how they could save money by moving their manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Reagan was instrumental in selling the idea of a free market economy, and every president since then has bought into it. The results? The below charts can be found at

Largest Maquila Employers in Mexico

1. Zenith18,000
2. GM13,000
3. GE8,000
4. RCA6,000
5. AC Nielson5,500
6. North American Phillips4,500
7. American Hospital3,500
Source: Hewlett Packard de Mexico

Maquiladora Hourly Wages v. Average Manufacturing Wages in Other Countries

1986 1985 1984 1983 1982 1981
5-day week
1.07 1.45 1.24 1.17 2.69 2.18
6-day week
.88 1.20 1.03 .96 2.22 1.80

United States
13.09 12.59 12.04 11.52 10.79
1.27 1.23 1.46 2.16 1.90
Hong Kong
1.78 1.60 1.52 1.67 1.55
6.64 6.35 6.13 5.70 6.18
1.38 1.36 1.30 1.25 1.17
1.68 1.70 1.46 1.40 1.35
-- 2.43 2.19 1.94 1.79
United Kingdom
6.06 5.85 6.26 6.76 7.13
7.69 7.42 7.92 8.01 8.15
West Germany
9.75 9.55 10.33 10.38 10.53
4.87 4.68 4.64 5.35 5.60
7.67 7.46 7.73 7.36 7.39
Source: COSTEP
Starting with President Reagan and continuing through every administration there has been a move toward a free market economy with the resultant decline in the wages of working Americans.

You are being watched:

In Utah there is construction of a million square foot National Security Administration building to collect and store close to your every communication and action. The following quote is from DemocracyNow!, March 21, 2012.

A new exposé in Wired Magazine reveals details about how the National Security Agency is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret NSA surveillance program codenamed "Stellar Wind." We speak with investigative reporter James Bamford, who says the NSA has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. The Utah spy center will contain near-bottomless databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency. This includes the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases and other digital "pocket litter." "The NSA has constantly denied that they’re doing things, and then it turns out they are doing these things," Bamford says in response to NSA Director General Keith Alexander’s denial yesterday that U.S. citizens’ phone calls and emails are being intercepted. "A few years ago, President Bush said before camera that the United States is not eavesdropping on anybody without a warrant, and then it turns out that we had this exposure to all the warrantless eavesdropping in the New York Times article. And so, you have this constant denial and parsing of words."

In Colorado Springs, CO there is a proposal to install security cameras to watch the public. When combined with face recognition software this could be used to track individual's movements.

Without a trial:
The government can, without trial restrict your movements. In 2008 the ACLU estimated that there were 1,000,000 names on the No Fly List, and growing. The process of limiting travel does not require a trial.

Corporations or our government will hurt or kill you at their will, and without trial. Anwar al-Awlaki was accused of being an official in a terrorist organization and was accused of being involved in the Fort Hood shooting as well as the attempted Christmas Day Bombing. There was never a trail yet he was assassinated by our government. There has been no evidence produced that his son had anything to do with these actions, but he too was assassinated.

Judi Bari was a Union Organizer and a environmental activist trying to save the old growth redwoods. In 1990 a motion activated pipe bomb exploded under her her seat. Both she and her passenger Darryl Cherney survived. Ms. Bari has since died of cancer.

Just 30 days prior the FBI held a bomb school on a Louisiana-Pacific Lumber Company clear-cut near Eureka CA, and two weeks later a bomb went off at a Louisiana-Pacific saw mill. Evidence shows that Judi Bari's car was bombed by the same person. When the car was bombed the first Oakland Police report stated that the car was booby trapped (set off by the car motion). Yet the first thing the FBI said to the hospitalized Darryl Cherney was:
This was your bomb, so why don’t you confess, make it easy on all of us, and get it over with?
The two sued the FBI and in 2002 a jury awarded the two victims $4.4 million after hearing "literally unbelievable testimony from the FBI and the Oakland police" (words of Mr. Cherney). Because the two pipe bombs were connected in construction, and because the one that exploded at the saw mill likely contains DNA evidence Mr. Cherney is taking legal action to have the the FBI turn over the evidence for independent testing. As of this writing the FBI is still fighting that request. In all appearances the FBI is protecting the know bomber.

"... it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

We are living in a country where our every action can be collected without warrant. We are living in a country where our movement can be limited without due process. We are living in a country where you can be kill with government involvement without due process.

We are living in a police state. " is (our) right, it is (our) duty, to throw off such Government ...". "To throw off" is not the same as to eliminate. It also includes replacing the power structure.

In the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the supreme court continued a long history of slowly giving corporation more personhood rights, starting before the colonization of the Americas. There are many proposals to revoke corporate personhood. I believe that this is treating the symptom, not the problem. The problem is the interdependency of government, corporations, and members of the corporation, but each not libel for the actions of the other. With that in mind I propose this amendment to the Constitution.

No entity doing business in more than one state shall be created that shield its members from the liabilities of that entity. The governing body of a business entity shall be held accountable under the law for crimes committed by the business entity. Members of such business entity shall not be held libel or accountable for the action of other members unless expressly written in contract or law. Such business entity shall not be held criminally responsible or libel for the actions of members unless the crime was committed at the instruction of the business. For crimes committed by such a business resulting in the loss of many lives, after due process, any state or federal court can order an immediate revoke of license to do business with all assets of the business frozen to pay liabilities. In cases of fraud or criminal activity, if the state granting the business entity reasonable should have known about the activity and has not taken steps to stop the activity the state is libel for uncollected liabilities of the business entity up to 110% of the taxes and fees collected from that business for the last 15 years. Such business entities do not have constitutional rights except for those granted by congress.

The biggest claim made is that it will destroy our economy because people will no longer invest. What will they do with their money? If they invest in foreign corporations that do business here or in U.S. corporations that do business here the liability is the same. That said, I would be surprised if it didn't cause a short term downturn in our economy. But I believe that the recovery will be with businesses and governments more accountable for their actions, and that citizens will have a greater say in government.

I welcome comment.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What makes me a liberal?

I had a discussion about where traditional conservatives and liberals agree and disagree. Out of it came the question of what separates us. After much thought I decided that a description of my beliefs may help explain why I am a liberal. What I write is not intended to be insulting to people with different beliefs.

In one short paragraph:

It is easy to treat those who deserve it humanely. It is how we treat those who don't deserve it that measures our humanity.

The decision of who deserves what is individual. Your opinion and mine will likely be different. At some point enough people agree on what people deserve, and it becomes a societal value. In our society laws are supposed to reflect this societal value. If the law and our societal value are not in alignment then the law needs changing.

There are some values that are the basis of our form of government and these are spelled out in our Constitution. This is important. Our religious beliefs affect our personal values, and as such our laws tend to reflect our collective religious values. But, the Constitution puts a limit on this specifically to protect the values of the minority.

My discussion here is religious, but not based upon a belief in a superior power. My beliefs are religious, based on a belief in humanity and in life. Religious beliefs cannot be debated because they are the foundation and assumption upon which our opinions and (hopefully) actions are based.

Restating my belief statement above, and paraphrasing a great man, what you do unto the least of these you do unto humanity.

It is easy to treat those who deserve it humanely.

It is trivial to say it is easy to not hit a stranger in the face for no reason. Providing first aid is a humane act. Helping people less fortunate or who have suffered a crisis is a humane act.

I do not want to trivialize the sacrifices made by people when they help out some deserving person. Easy is relative. I am very glad that some of our injured troops are getting aid they need, but that our government hasn't provided (and therefore not deserving under my definition). The outpouring of aid after a natural disaster is great to see. These are real sacrifices made in time, money, emotional wellbeing, etc. Humane acts can even cause long term or permanent harm to the giver such as nightmares, injury, or even death. But, these are people in good standing in the eye of the person acting humanely. To exemplify what I mean by “easy” is relative I will use an extreme case. Putting yourself in harm’s way to save a friend's life is easier that taking the same action to save someone who has repeatedly harmed you.

It is how we treat those who don't deserve it that measures our humanity.

Continuing with my example, though I disagree with the morality of war, a soldier who risks his life to save the life of an enemy is acting with great humanity.

We make errors. When we decide that someone doesn't deserve something it is normally because they have done something, or belong to some group. In World War II we decided that people of Japanese descent did not deserve to live in society. Clearly that was an error. We acted inhumanely. It would have been humane to let those we felt undeserving to continue their lives in society at large. We cannot give back the years lost. As reflected by our actions, we still believe that they do not deserve full compensation for their economic loss.

There are those who got what they deserved and lost much more. On May 4th, 1990 we executed Jesse Joseph Talero. We gave him what he deserved. There is a problem. He was innocent. The only reason we know about him is that his partner Sunny "Sonia" Jacobs was later exonerated. And if you think we execute humanely, Jesse didn't die on the first attempt to electrocute him, but rather his head caught fire. When his teenage daughter heard about the pain her father went through she attempted suicide. Our humanity was measured when we killed him.

These are cases where we gave people what they deserved only to change our minds later. What about when we haven't changed our minds?

I have frequently thought and said that I hope I don't get what I deserve. I have what I have because I am white, I live in a rich country, and I have been lucky. I have done little to warrant more than those in the favelas of Rio. Our condition in life is more based upon chance than anything we have done. Keep that in mind. Most of the people we label through our laws as undeserving are undeserving by chance.

Society has made decisions about what the people listed here deserve, and it is upon this that our humanity is measured. I have selected issues that generally separate liberal and conservative thought.

Undocumented people living in our society do not deserve to live in it.

We deserve to live here even though our descendent came here undocumented.

Some employed people, and those making a good income deserve preventative health care.

Unemployed, lower incomes, etc. deserve emergency room care only.

Sometimes if you kill someone or several people you deserve to die.

Sometimes you can kill hundreds, thousands, or even millions but you don't deserve to die.

If your parents make enough money you deserve food on the table.

I could go on, but the point is made. Our humanity is measured by how our society takes care of these people. And this is reflected in our laws.

Humanitarian help outside of government is good, but it will never replace governmental help. Otherwise homelessness and hunger would already be eliminated and everyone would get preventative medical care. To say that this isn't the roll of government is to say that some people are more deserving of basic needs than others based primarily on chance.

This is why I'm a liberal.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Almost every single year of my life the U.S. has been involved in military action in a foreign country. In most cases the county has natural gas or oil, even when it is humanitarian aid (see Haiti). In only one case that I know of was our action specifically stated as involving oil, so the evidence is in the pattern. (Note: I am not stating that every conflict involves countries with oil reserves.)

Before I start going through the conflicts I want to comment about "One nation under God". Under god was added in 1954 as a Cold War reaction to communism. We have a long history of believing that we have some God given rights or missions not granted to others, as evidenced by our "manifest destiny" to steal land from it inhabitants, or the Monroe Doctrine. Adding God to our money, and to our pledge feeds into this. THIS IS WRONG AND DANGEROUS. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO ANYTHING OUTSIDE OUR BORDERS. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO FORCEFULLY DEFEND OUR BUSINESS INTERESTS IN OTHER COUNTRIES. To claim otherwise is imperialism.

That last statement is important enough to expand upon. Suppose we freeze assets belonging to the business interests of another country. Does that country have the right to attack us? Does that country have the right to form a coalition of countries to attack us? If so, Palestine and all its allies have that right. (Remember, on votes regarding Israel and Palestine there are numerous times the vote was the whole world against the U.S. and Israel.)

Now, here are the military actions I am aware of in my life. I've excluded action within our own borders.

The format is Nation; Year(s); Oil reserves. Comments are on the next line(s).

PHILIPPINES; 1948-54; 168,000,000 bbl
The CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion.

PUERTO RICO; 1950; (No oil reserves)
US provided Command Operations. Independence rebellion crushed in Ponce.

KOREA; 1951-53 (-?); (No oil reserves)
Sent Troops, naval, bombed, threatened nuclear.
U.S./So. Korea fights China/No. Korea to stalemate. The threat of using the A-bomb threat in 1950, and against China in 1953. We still have bases.

IRAN; 1953; 137,600,000,000 bbl
CIA overthrows democracy, installs Shah.

VIETNAM; 1954; 4,700,000,000 bbl
French offered bombs to use against siege.

GUATEMALA; 1954; 83,070,000 bbl
CIA directs exile invasion after new gov't nationalized U.S. company lands; bombers based in Nicaragua.

EGYPT; 1956; 4,300,000,000 bbl
Soviets told to keep out of Suez crisis; Marines evacuate foreigners; threaten nuclear.

LEBANON; 1958; (No oil reserves)
Army & Marine occupation against rebels.

IRAQ; 1958; 115,000,000,000 bbl
Iraq warned against invading Kuwait. Nuclear threatened.

CHINA; 1958; 20,350,000,000 bbl
China told not to move on Taiwan isles. Nuclear threatened

PANAMA; 1958; (No oil reserves)
Flag protests erupt into confrontation.

VIETNAM; 1960-75; 4,700,000,000 bbl
Fought South Vietnam revolt & North Vietnam; one million killed; atomic bomb threats in l968 and l969.

CUBA; 1961; 178,900,000 bbl
CIA-directed exile invasion fails.

GERMANY; 1961; 276,000,000 bbl
Alert during Berlin Wall crisis. Nuclear use threatened.

LAOS; 1962; (No oil reserves)
Provided military command during the military buildup during guerrilla war.

CUBA; 1962; 178,900,000 bbl
Blockade during missile crisis; near-war with Soviet Union.

IRAQ; 1963; 115,000,000,000 bbl
CIA organizes coup that killed president, brings Ba'ath Party to power, and Saddam Hussein back from exile to be head of the secret service.

PANAMA; 1964; (No oil reserves)
Panamanians shot for urging canal's return.

INDONESIA; 1965; 4,050,000,000 bbl
Million killed in CIA-assisted army coup.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; 1965-66; (No oil reserves)
Army & Marines land during election campaign.

GUATEMALA; 1966-67; 83,070,000 bbl
Green Berets intervene against rebels.

CAMBODIA; 1969-75; (No oil reserves)
Up to 2 million killed in decade of bombing, starvation, and political chaos.

OMAN; 1970; 5,500,000,000 bbl
U.S. directs Iranian marine invasion.

LAOS; 1971-73; (No oil reserves)
U.S. directs South Vietnamese invasion; "carpet-bombs" countryside.

MIDEAST; 1973; (Multiple nations with reserves)
World-wide alert during Mideast War. Nuclear action threatened.

CHILE; 1973; 150,000,000 bbl
CIA-backed coup ousts elected marxist president.

CAMBODIA; 1975; (No oil reserves)
Gassing of captured ship Mayagüez, 28 troops die when copter shot down.

ANGOLA; 1976-92; 13,500,000,000 bbl
CIA assists South African-backed rebels.

IRAN; 1980; 137,600,000,000 bbl
Raid to rescue Embassy hostages; 8 troops die in copter-plane crash. Soviets warned not to get involved in revolution.

LIBYA; 1981; 47,000,000,000 bbl
Two Libyan jets shot down in maneuvers.

EL SALVADOR; 1981-92 (No oil reserves)
overflights aid anti-rebel war, soldiers briefly involved in hostage clash

NICARAGUA; 1981-90; (No oil reserves)
CIA directs exile (Contra) invasions, plants harbor mines against revolution.

LEBANON; 1982-84; (No oil reserves)
Marines expel PLO and back Phalangists, Navy bombs and shells Muslim positions. 241 Marines killed when Shi'a rebel bombs barracks.

GRENADA; 1983-84; (N0 oil reserves)
Invasion four years after revolution.

HONDURAS; 1983-89; (N0 oil reserves)
Maneuvers help build bases near borders.

IRAN; 1984; 137,600,000,000 bbl
Two Iranian jets shot down over Persian Gulf.

LIBYA; 1986; 47,000,000,000 bbl
Air strikes to topple nationalist gov't.

BOLIVIA; 1986; 465,000,000 bbl
Army assists raids on cocaine region.

IRAN; 1987-88; 137,600,000,000 bbl
US intervenes on side of Iraq in war.

LIBYA; 1989; 47,000,000,000 bbl
Two Libyan jets shot down.

VIRGIN ISLANDS; 1989; (No oil reserves)
St. Croix Black unrest after storm. We sent troops.

PHILIPPINES; 1989; 168,000,000 bbl
Air cover provided for government against coup.

PANAMA; 1989 (-?); (No oil reserves)
Nationalist government ousted by 27,000 soldiers, leaders arrested, 2000+ killed. We bombed

LIBERIA; 1990; (No oil reserves)
Foreigners evacuated during civil war.

SAUDI ARABIA; 1990-91; 264,600,000,000 bbl
Iraq countered after invading Kuwait. 540,000 troops also stationed in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Israel.

IRAQ; 1990-91; 115,000,000,000 bbl
Blockade of Iraqi and Jordanian ports, air strikes; 200,000+ killed in invasion of Iraq and Kuwait; large-scale destruction of Iraqi military.

KUWAIT; 1991; 104,000,000,000 bbl
Kuwait royal family returned to throne.

IRAQ; 1991-2003; 115,000,000,000 bbl
No-fly zone over Kurdish north, Shiite south; constant air strikes and naval-enforced economic sanctions

SOMALIA; 1992-94; (No oil reserves)
U.S.-led United Nations occupation during civil war; raids against one Mogadishu faction.

YUGOSLAVIA; 1992-94 (No oil reserves)
NATO blockade of Serbia and Montenegro.

BOSNIA; 1993-?; (No oil reserves)
No-fly zone patrolled in civil war; downed jets, bombed Serbs.

HAITI; 1994; Suspected oil reserves
Blockade against military government; troops restore President Aristide to office three years after coup. Geophysicists believe it may have one of the worlds largest untapped reserve of oil and gas.

ZAIRE (CONGO); 1996-97; 1,600,000,000 bbl
Troops at Rwandan Hutu refugee camps, in area where Congo revolution begins.

LIBERIA; 1997; (No oil reserves)
Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.

ALBANIA; 1997; 199,100,000 bbl
Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.

SUDAN; 1998; 6,800,000,000 bbl
Attack on pharmaceutical plant alleged to be "terrorist" nerve gas plant.

AFGHANISTAN; 1998; Strategic location for oil pipeline
Attack on former CIA training camps used by Islamic fundamentalist groups alleged to have attacked embassies.
Borders Turkmenistan with the third largest natural gas reserves globally. Russia, China, and the US are all planning new pipelines, with the US plan going through Afghanistan.

IRAQ; 1998; 115,000,000,000 bbl
Four days of intensive air strikes after weapons inspectors allege Iraqi obstructions.

YUGOSLAVIA; 1999; (No oil reserves)
Heavy NATO air strikes after Serbia declines to withdraw from Kosovo. NATO occupation of Kosovo.

YEMEN; 2000; 3,000,000,000 bbl
USS Cole, docked in Aden, bombed.

MACEDONIA; 2001; (No oil reserves)
NATO forces deployed to move and disarm Albanian rebels.

AFGHANISTAN; 2001-?; Strategic location for oil pipeline
Massive U.S. mobilization to overthrow Taliban, hunt Al Qaeda fighters, install Karzai regime, and battle Taliban insurgency. More than 30,000 U.S. troops and numerous private security contractors carry our occupation.
Borders Turkmenistan with the third largest natural gas reserves globally. Russia, China, and the US are all planning new pipelines, with the US plan going through Afghanistan.

YEMEN; 2002; 3,000,000,000 bbl
Predator drone missile attack on Al Qaeda, including US citizens.

PHILIPPINES; 2002-?; 168,000,000 bbl
Training mission for Philippine military fighting Abu Sayyaf rebels evolves into combat missions in Sulu Archipelago, west of Mindanao.

COLOMBIA; 2003-?; 1,900,000,000 bbl
US special forces sent to rebel zone to back up Colombian military protecting oil pipeline.

IRAQ; 2003-?; 115,000,000,000 bbl
Saddam regime toppled in Baghdad. More than 250,000 U.S. personnel participate in invasion. US and UK forces occupy country and battle Sunni and Shi'ite insurgencies. More than 160,000 troops and numerous private contractors carry out occupation and build large permanent bases.

LIBERIA; 2003; (No oil reserves)
Brief involvement in peacekeeping force as rebels drove out leader.

HAITI; 2004-05; Suspected oil reserves
Marines & Army land after right-wing rebels oust elected President Aristide, who was advised to leave by Washington.
Geophysicists believe it may have one of the worlds largest untapped reserve of oil and gas. US refused landing rights to Venezuelan, Nicaraquan, Bolivian, French, and Swiss planes carrying medical supplies and water.

PAKISTAN; 2005-?; 436,200,000 bbl
CIA missile and air strikes and Special Forces raids on alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban refuge villages kill multiple civilians. Drone attacks also on Pakistani Mehsud network.

SOMALIA; 2006-?; (No oili reserves)
Special Forces advise Ethiopian invasion that topples Islamist government; AC-130 strikes, Cruise missile attacks and helicopter raids against Islamist rebels; naval blockade against "pirates" and insurgents.

SYRIA; 2008; 2,500,000,000 bbl
Special Forces in helicopter raid 5 miles from Iraq kill 8 Syrian civilians

YEMEN; 2009-?; 3,000,000,000 bbl
Cruise missile attack on Al Qaeda kills 49 civilians; Yemeni military assaults on rebels

HAITI; 2010-?; Suspected oil reserves
Post earthquake relief.
Geophysicists believe it may have one of the worlds largest untapped reserve of oil and gas. US refused landing rights to Venezuelan, Nicaraquan, Bolivian, French, and Swiss planes carrying medical supplies and water.

LIBYA; 2011 (?); 47,000,000,000 bbl
NATO coordinates air strikes and missile attacks against Qaddafi government during uprising by rebel army.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Carrying on the fight

For those who worked to save Troy Davis, we lost that struggle. Though I firmly believe he was innocent, I'm not writing about this case. I will start by honoring him.

Troy Davis proved himself a honorable and caring person, even when he was strapped to the gurney and knew his life would end in minutes. I don't know if I could forgive those who were about to unjustly kill me. He did, proving himself a hero. These are his last words as reported by the Associated Press.

"I'd like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I'm not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent.

The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask ... is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth.

I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight.

For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls."

I am not writing this as an English Lit exercise. I am writing in an attempt to create change. If you disagree with what I write I would love for you to comment stating exactly where we disagree. If you agree with my writing I would equally love for you to refer others to this page, especially those who disagree.

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment does not deter crime, executes innocent people, is expensive, and is immoral. Where I use the words of others I will give credit.

Capital punishment does not deter crime. (From Amnesty International)

A September 2000 New York Times survey found that during the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48 to 101 percent higher than in states without the death penalty.

FBI data shows that all 14 states without capital punishment in 2008 had homicide rates at or below the national rate.

The murder rate in non-Death Penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in States with the Death Penalty.

Overall National Murder Rates of Death Penalty and Non-Death Penalty States

The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime

Capital punishment executes innocent people. (From Amnesty International)
Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death rows throughout the country due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. In 2003 alone, 10 wrongfully convicted defendants were released from death row.

Examples of wrongful convictions:
Arizona: Ray Krone, released in 2002
  • Spent 10 years in prison in Arizona, including time on death row, for a murder he did not commit. He was the 100th person to be released from death row since 1973. DNA testing proved his innocence.

Illinois: Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Stanley Howard and LeRoy Orange, pardoned in 2003
  • Sent to death row on the basis of "confessions" extracted through the use of torture by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and other Area 2 police officers in Chicago. They were pardoned by outgoing Governor George Ryan, who also commuted the remaining 167 death sentences in Illinois to life imprisonment.

North Carolina: Jonathon Hoffman, exonerated in 2007
  • Convicted and sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of a jewelry store owner. During Hoffman's first trial, the state's key witness, Johnell Porter, made undisclosed deals with the prosecutors for testifying against his cousin. Porter has since recanted his testimony, stating that he lied in order to get back at his cousin for stealing money from him.
Factors leading to wrongful convictions include:
  • Inadequate legal representation
  • Police and prosecutorial misconduct
  • Perjured testimony and mistaken eyewitness testimony
  • Racial prejudice
  • Jailhouse "snitch" testimony
  • Suppression and/or misinterpretation of mitigating evidence
  • Community/political pressure to solve a case
(My own words) Can anyone honestly say that, because some people were exonerated before being killed, that no innocent people were killed?

Capital punishment is expensive. (From Amnesty International.)
  • A 2003 legislative audit in Kansas found that the estimated cost of a death penalty case was 70% more than the cost of a comparable non-death penalty case. Death penalty case costs were counted through to execution (median cost $1.26 million). Non-death penalty case costs were counted through to the end of incarceration (median cost $740,000).(December 2003 Survey by the Kansas Legislative Post Audit)
  • In Tennessee, death penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment.
    (2004 Report from Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Office of Research)
  • In Maryland death penalty cases cost 3 times more than non-death penalty cases, or $3 million for a single case.
    (Urban Institute, The Cost of the Death Penalty in Maryland, March 2008)
  • In California the current sytem costs $137 million per year; it would cost $11.5 million for a system without the death penalty.
    (California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice, July 2008)

The greatest costs associated with the death penalty occur prior to and during trial, not in post-conviction proceedings. Even if all post-conviction proceedings (appeals) were abolished, the death penalty would still be more expensive than alternative sentences.

Capital punishment is immoral.
I do not believe that "all my friends are doing it" is an excuse or a moral stance. But, when "all my friends" are making a moral decision, then I need to look at why they made that decision. With that in mind, here's a map of the world from Wikipedia showing where capital punishment is used and not used.

Abolished for all crimes
Abolished for crimes not committed in exceptional circumstances (such as crimes committed in time of war)
Abolished in practice
Legal form of punishment

Morality is individual. What I think is immoral, and what you think is immoral will likely be different. I will state some of the reasons I find capital punishment immoral. Each argument taken individually does not necessarily make capital punishment immoral. Similarly capital punishment is not moral just because you disagree with any argument.

Capital punishment is cruel to the accused, to the accused family, and to the victims family. The case of Troy Davis a good example. Troy's execution date was set four times. Four times Troy had to prepare to die, and four times both families had to prepare. This plays mental havoc on everyone. In the case of the victim's family, this delays when they can move on with their lives. Even in the case that their are no delay, capital punishment delays the healing process while the accused is on death row.

The race of the victim is more important in the decision to execute someone than the seriousness of the crime. This chart is from Amnesty International.

The assignment of the death penalty highly arbitrary. These are factors that contribute to the arbitrariness of the death penalty, including the previously mentioned factor of race. (From Amnesty International.)

  • Almost all death row inmates could not afford their own attorney at trial. Court-appointed attorneys often lack the experience necessary for capital trials and are overworked and underpaid. In the most extreme cases, some have slept through parts of trials or have arrived under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Prosecutors seek the death penalty far more frequently when the victim of a homicide is white than when the victim is African-American or of another ethnic/racial origin.
  • Co-defendants charged with committing the same crime often receive different punishments, where one defendant may receive a death sentence while another receives prison time.
  • Approximately two percent of those convicted of crimes that make them eligible for the death penalty actually receive a death sentence.
  • Each prosecutor decides whether or not to seek the death penalty. Local politics, the location of the crime, plea bargaining, and pure chance affect the process and make it a lottery of who lives and who dies.
  • GEOGRAPHIC ARBITRARINESS: Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 80% of all executions have taken place in the South. The Northeast accounts for less than 2% of executions.

Executions by Region

(From Amnesty International)
The execution of those with mental illness or "the insane" is clearly prohibited by international law. Virtually every country in the world prohibits the execution of people with mental illness.
International Resolutions Year Excerpt
UN Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty 1984 " ...nor shall the death sentence be carried out... on persons who have become insane."
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions 1997 Governments that continue to use the death penalty "with respect to minors and the mentally ill are particularly called upon to bring their domestic legislation into conformity with international legal standards."
UN Commission on Human Rights 2000 Urges all states that maintain the death penalty "not to impose it on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder; not to execute any such person."

The execution of the insane – someone who does not understand the reason for, or the reality of, his or her punishment - violates the U.S. Constitution (Ford v. Wainwright, 1986). The Ford decision left the determination of sanity up to each state. Constitutional protections for those with other forms of mental illness are minimal, however, and dozens of prisoners have been executed despite suffering from serious mental illness. The National Association of Mental Health has estimated that five to ten percent of those on death row have serious mental illness.

  • James Colburn had an extensive history of paranoid schizophrenia when he was arrested for murder. During his 1995 trial, Mr. Colburn received injections of Haldol, an anti-psychotic drug that can have a powerful sedative effect. A 1997 post-conviction assessment questioned Mr. Colburn's competency to stand trial at that time, finding he had been "seriously sedated during the time of his trial." He was executed March 26, 2003.
  • On January 6, 2004, the State of Arkansas executed Charles Singleton, who was said to be "seriously deranged without treatment" and "arguably incompetent with treatment." It was only during an episode of "drug-induced sanity" that the state scheduled his execution.
  • On May 18, 2004, Kelsey Patterson was executed in Texas although he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1981 and did not possess rational understanding at his trial.

The State of Texas ranks 46th out of the 50 U.S. states in terms of the amount of money spent per capita in the treatment of the mentally ill, including funds for mental health services in jails and prisons (News 8 Austin, April 21, 2003). It spends an average of $2.3 million to try a death penalty case. (Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992).

(My own words) Texas executes over four time as many people as the second highest state.

In the words of Troy Davis, "I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight." I ask my family, my friends, and others to continue to fight this fight.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The failure of Violence

Several times I have written about how non-violent action works. Today I am writing about the failure of violence. This is not a moral discussion, though my belief in non-violence is a moral decision. This is about the reality of violence.

I will not go into the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in detail. What is important is that many people believe that their protracted fight was one of the major causes of the collapse of the USSR. Most importantly, Osama bin Laden fought with the Mujahideen, and believed that they brought down the empire. Osama only believed in Sharia Law and violently opposed socialism, communism, democracy, and pan-Arabism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union he turned his attention to the other great power, the U.S., and apparently believed he could cause its collapse also.

Prior to 2001 he made several attacks on us with minor successes, enough to be on the CIA most wanted list. Then on 9/11/2001 he made had his only major success.

Our response was predictable and violent. We attacked. We overthrew the Afghan government, and sent Al Qaeda up into the mountains. Now we have killed Osama bin Laden. We won.

Since 9/11 we have had many of our rights taken away. All Osama bin Laden has had to do is occasionally have someone make an attempt at a violent act, and it didn't even need to be successful. Each time more of our rights were taken away. We now can be "legally" sexually assaulted if we choose to fly. We have spent trillions of dollars fighting while our infrastructure deteriorates, education falls behind, and we brought down the world economy. Osama bin Laden won.

So, both sides won violently.

I see something else. I see two playground bullies trying to be the playground boss, and so intent on hurting each other that they don't even see that the playground has moved. Both of us became irrelevant.

When Tunisia revolted against their government they did it on their own. The Western World and Al Qaeda were not invited. Egypt was one of our proxy torturers. When they revolted we didn't get the invite, and neither did Al Qaeda. When Pakistan and Afghanistan met to work out a reconciliation agreement the U.S. wasn't at the table. And the new Egyptian government just helped broker an agreement between Hamas and Fatah that would re-unite Gaza and the West Bank. The U.S. wasn't there. Al Qaeda wasn't there. We are irrelevant.


Note: Libya is not an example contrary to my point. In Tunisia and Egypt the peaceful demonstrations were met with violent repression including being shot. The reaction of the people was to join in mass and peacefully. They won and it appears they threw off the imperial influence of the U.S. The Libyan people chose to rebel violently, and became dependent upon the imperialist in their struggle. Every case is different, and we don't know if peaceful demonstrations would have worked. I do know that because of their dependence upon external military force, if the rebellion is successful the external governments will have influence over their government and natural resources.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A proposal to amend the Constitution

Last week the Democrats and Republicans negotiated a budget. In that budget was a rider that prevented the 24th largest city in the U.S. from using locally collected taxes for a needle exchange, against the will of the city council provided a voucher program to fund students going to private schools, and restricted elective abortions. This was only possible because of a clause in the Constitution that give congress "exclusive legislation" over the District of Columbia.

This is an excerpt form Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;

It is outrageous and immoral that the Republicans used the budget of the D.C. as a pawn in the negotiations, and it is immoral that the Democrats allowed it. There is only one way to permanently protect the citizens for this abuse in the future; to amend the Constitution. Washington D.C. needs to be granted statehood. There are other reasons to take this action.

1. The original purpose of this clause in no longer valid. It was created to permit the federal government the power to provide their own protection from attack. In 1783 a mob of angry soldier attacked the Congress at Philadelphia leading James Madison to argue for this separate district.
2. The people of Washington D.C. are to a great extent disenfranchised, going against the very principal of the establishment of our government. The 23rd amendment gives them 3 electoral votes, but still do not have anyone in the congress.
3. They want statehood.
These first reasons are moral reasons. There are political reasons also.
4. In recent elections the district has voted overwhelmingly democratic.
5. Washington D.C. is similar to many inner cities, and as such tend to support progressive social issues. This is exemplified by the very items that our government took away from them. The Progressive Caucus is the largest caucus in the House of Representatives with 18.4% of all representatives belonging. There is a good chance that a representative from D.C. would join.

Some of the the arguments against allowing D.C. representation are these.
It is contrary to the Constitution. This argument ironically was used by G. W. Bush who clearly violated the constitution. But, this is why I propose the change be made to the Constitution.
It is too small to be given the full representation of statehood. This ignores that Wyoming has a smaller population, and no one suggests it is too small.
The Democratic party is accused of supporting this for self interest reasons. My short answer is "So?" This is clearly a self interest argument and suggesting it, especially after what was done in the budget, is hypocritical.

For both moral and political reasons, the Progressive Caucus and the Democratic Party should make the statehood of Washington D.C. an issue.