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 Mayag├╝ez, 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.