IVN.us http://ivn.us Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News Mon, 22 Dec 2014 20:48:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Death of The New Republic: Should Independents Care? http://ivn.us/2014/12/22/death-new-republic-independents-care/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/22/death-new-republic-independents-care/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 11:30:34 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295655847 The Death of The New Republic: Should Independents Care?

TNR’s wavering politics may, superficially, appear to be the sign of a truly independent outlet. It took up unpredictable positions (except when it came to war -– the magazine has hardly seen a war it did not like) that upset both conservatives and progressives and was fickle in its endorsements of Republicans and Democrats.

Joshua AlvarezIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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The Death of The New Republic: Should Independents Care?

The media is a common discussion topic on this website, as it should be. Dissatisfaction with both the political system and the media landscape is entirely related.

Followers of IVN want “independent” politicians and media. But that word “independent” is ostentatious and vague, which makes it perfect for political ad campaigns for any party, anywhere (“Want independence from Western pigs? Vote Ba’ath!”) and used car dealerships during the 4th of July (“Celebrate your independence by signing this lease…”). 

Which brings to mind the curious case of The New Republic magazine. The D.C.-based magazine had recently turned 100 years old. It was a veritable institution of American journalism. That was, until nearly its entire staff and editorial board resigned en masse a couple weeks ago.

I won’t recap the events leading up to the insurrection. I’ll leave that to The Daily Beast (there are other good blow-by-blow accounts in New York magazine and The New Yorker). All I’ll say is that this is Exhibit B of evidence that Silicon Valley culture is incompatible with the work of actual journalism. 

The New Republic was a bastion of progressive politics –- to an extent. The magazine was founded by leading intellectuals of the early 20th-century Progressive Era, but as its leadership changed so did its politics.

Starting in the 1970s, particularly after Martin Peretz bought the magazine, it began to fashion itself as a “contrarian liberal,” which is a roundabout way of saying it steadily moved to the Right. It supported Reagan’s aggressive foreign policy against Communism in South America, including aiding the Contras, a right-wing militia group that most of the region, including non-Communists, considered to be a terrorist organization.

Particularly, the magazine radically shifted its stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict to give full-throated support to the former and essentially deny the personhood of the latter. The magazine also assumed and promoted bigoted caricatures of African-Americans and Latinos.

Peretz’s racism was given a huge soapbox (though it was initially denied to him by one of his editors, who he promptly fired and assumed his job).

TNR’s wavering politics may, superficially, appear to be the sign of a truly independent outlet. It took up unpredictable positions (except when it came to war -– the magazine has hardly seen a war it did not like) that upset both conservatives and progressives and was fickle in its endorsements of Republicans and Democrats.

For example, it endorsed the independent candidate for the 1980 presidential election, rejecting both the incumbent Jimmy Carter and the main challenger Ronald Reagan. 

Since its founding, TNR hardly ever made profits. Owning the magazine, at least financially, was always an act of charity, though it came with acknowledged prestige that pays dividends in a town that worships that kind of thing.

However, as TNR’s history shows, its business model means that the owner has near-dictatorial control on what the magazine reports and the positions it takes –- hardly a display of independence. Contrast that (fairly standard) ownership model with that of magazines like The Nation, the oldest weekly magazine in the United States, which is a nonprofit with no owner.

Everybody who works in The Nation “owns” the magazine, which means they answer to nobody and have full editorial freedom. Yet, unlike TNR, The Nation has been largely consistent with its politics; since it’s founding by Abolitionists, it has been considered to be the mainstream flagship of left-radical politics.

To be sure, TNR’s demise is not a foreboding sign of journalism’s apocalypse. The events leading up to its suicide had more to do with horrible management. But that’s the risk it ran with its un-independent business model.

Joshua AlvarezIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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6 Stories The Media Beat to Death in 2014 That Have Faded Into Obscurity http://ivn.us/2014/12/22/6-stories-media-beat-death-faded-obscurity/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/22/6-stories-media-beat-death-faded-obscurity/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 11:00:41 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295655667 6 Stories The Media Beat to Death in 2014 That Have Faded Into Obscurity

The following six topics from 2014 were once a major focus of the fleeting attention of the media. Each of them at one point has received overwhelming media attention to become a fixture of American dialogue before fading into obscurity.

Steve BakerIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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6 Stories The Media Beat to Death in 2014 That Have Faded Into Obscurity

In a digital world the media often struggles to maintain the attention of its audience. Between horrific mass killings, viral outbreaks, violent authority figures, terrorists, and tantalizing political melodrama, the focus of our media shifts constantly.

The following six topics from 2014 were once a major focus of the fleeting attention of the media. Each of them at one point has received overwhelming media attention to become a fixture of American dialogue before fading into obscurity.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Questions remain as to how and where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 came to its unfortunate end. Two-hundred and thirty nine people were never heard from again after contact was lost with the aircraft in March 2014. Efforts to find the aircraft have not been exhausted as the search continues, but the national media’s unrelenting attention did little to provide substantive insight into the unsolved tragedy.

Since the airliner crashed in March, 24-hour news networks have shifted focus from sensationalized speculation to passive, intermittent reporting.

Israel-Palestine Conflict

Israeli aerial bombings, Operation Protective Edge, of Palestinian-controlled Gaza during the summer of 2014 overshadowed most television news coverage at the end of July and early August.

Since the operations, tensions remain high in the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas. Little, if any progress has been made, but the 24-hour news cycle has moved on to greener pastures.

Campaign Finance Laws

The 2014 midterm election was the most expensive midterm election in American history — totaling $3.67 billion. In part due to the Supreme Court’s April decision on McCutcheon v. FEC which increased the aggregate donation limits to candidates. Coverage of the decision’s possible effect of the decision on the political process remained peripheral throughout the course of the election season. Still, even after a report by the Center for Responsive Politics detailed the final cost, media attention remained elsewhere.

“Bridgegate”

In January 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie became the subject of a firestorm of media attention after allegations that political retribution affected the lives of NJ and NY citizens due to bridge closures and traffic congestion on the Washington Bridge. What became known as ‘Bridgegate’ was believed to be an act of revenge against elected officials that did not officially support Christie’s campaign. A probe into the incident has been conducted for months with no end in sight, but national attention has shifted following the end of the midterm election season.

Government Surveillance

Thrust into the American zeitgeist following Snowden’s release of classified documents, government monitoring and mass intelligence gathering became a controversial focus of media attention and public opinion. But, media attention on the subject has remained reactive and sparse.

For instance, at the beginning of 2014, a report addressed dealings between Internet providers and intelligence agencies over use of customer data. Coverage of government surveillance programs following these negotiations have been limited. In November, Congress blocked a bill that would reform information gathering programs used by the NSA. Yet, during the same period, the media and the nation remained focused on the decision of a St. Louis grand jury.

9/11 Report

The potential release of 28 pages of the 9/11 report received limited focus following the shooting death of Michael Brown. The report would implicate the Saudi government in having a larger role in the attack than previously expressed but the report received less attention than more sensational events.

The overall purpose of the media is to direct the audience’s focus and keep it. In an effort to do so, the media must constantly develop stories and shift focuses to meet the demands of their audience. But a danger exists; with so many sources of information constantly vying for our attention, how do we know that information we receive is anything but entertainment?

Image: The Independent

Steve BakerIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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http://ivn.us/2014/12/22/6-stories-media-beat-death-faded-obscurity/feed/ 9 6 Stories The Media Beat to Death in 2014 That Have Faded Into Obscurity - IVN.us Here is a list of the top stories of 2014 the media completely forgot about. After days of nonstop coverage, these unresolved topics no longer get any attention from the media. campaign finance,chris christie,Edward Snowden,Flight 370,israel,mainstream media,NSA,Palestine,top stories of 2014
“The Height to Be Superb Humanity”: A Poet’s Christmas Greeting to a New Democracy http://ivn.us/2014/12/21/height-superb-humanity-poets-christmas-greeting-2/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/21/height-superb-humanity-poets-christmas-greeting-2/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 03:16:17 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295655956 “The Height to Be Superb Humanity”: A Poet’s Christmas Greeting to a New Democracy

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) thought a lot about what it meant to live in a democratic society. He was born at a time when self-government was a new thing—an exciting experiment whose success was by no means guaranteed. And he lived … Continued

Michael AustinIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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“The Height to Be Superb Humanity”: A Poet’s Christmas Greeting to a New Democracy

"Democracy is the political recognition of the fundamental equality of all human beings. And only human beings who grasp this principle—really grasp it—can make a democratic society work."Michael Austin
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) thought a lot about what it meant to live in a democratic society. He was born at a time when self-government was a new thing—an exciting experiment whose success was by no means guaranteed. And he lived through the cataclysm of the American Civil War—the one of the most severe tests that any democracy has ever faced.

Almost everything that Whitman wrote was an attempt to understand and explain the deepest principles of democracy. These principles went well beyond social organization. Democracy is the political recognition of the fundamental equality of all human beings. And only human beings who grasp this principle—really grasp it—can make a democratic society work. Democratic government, Whitman understood, required democratic people.

For Whitman, these were sacred things, and he was quite possibly the nineteenth century’s greatest evangelist for democracy. He believed passionately in the fundamental equality of all people, and he wanted everybody to live in a society that recognized it too. This is the context of one of history’s greatest Christmas cards.

In 1889, a Brazilian field marshal named Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca overthrew the highly popular Emperor Dom Pedro II and declared the first Republic of Brazil. On Christmas Day of that year, seventy-year-old Whitman wrote the poem “Christmas Greeting” to welcome Brazil into the family of democratic nations. It is my favorite Christmas poem:

Welcome, Brazilian brotherthy ample place is ready;
A loving hand—a smile from the north—a sunny instant hail!
(Let the future care for itself, where it reveals its troubles, impedimentas,
Ours, ours the present throe, the democratic aim, the acceptance and the faith;)
To thee to-day our reaching arm, our turning neck—
to thee from us the expectant eye,
Thou cluster free! thou brilliant lustrous one! thou, learning well,
The true lesson of a nation’s light in the sky,
(More shining than the Cross, more than the Crown,)
The height to be superb humanity.

It is important that Whitman chose Christmas as the occasion for this poem—even though he wrote it for secular ends. But he intuited, as only poets can, the deep connection between the Christmas message and the requirements of democracy. For Whitman, the best Christmas present that his beloved country could give to Brazil was a shining example of how to be good at democracy. And being good at democracy ultimately requires only one thing: “the height to be superb humanity.”

Whitman understood that ordinary humanity will not do in a democracy. Ordinary people lack the tools to make self-government work. Ordinary human nature is too tribal and petty, too willing to hate what does not resemble itself, too quick to become angry, too slow to forgive, and too willing to set aside hopes and be governed by fears.

But democracy calls us to be better than ordinary. So, too, did the one whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day. He taught us to reject what was natural, and therefore easy, and to undergo a mighty change of heart. He taught us to seek first the Kingdom of God. And he showed us that the Kingdom of God was within us. And, perhaps most importantly, He taught us that there was no distinction we need to notice between God and other people.

This is why Whitman sent the people of Brazil an invitation to democracy on Christmas Day. For him, Christmas was the perfect time to encourage us to be be superb humanity. This is also what democracy demands.

The power of this message is strengthened by its universality. It is the message of Christ, but it is not a “Christian message.” It is the consistent message of all faiths, and all philosophies worth dedicating a life to. One does not have to adhere to a particular faith, or any faith at all, to follow Whitman’s call. One need only reject ordinariness when it comes to being human.

 

Nota Bene: This essay is a revised version of my 2013 Christmas Message, which also appeared on IVN.

Michael AustinIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Sen. Rand Paul Wages Twitter War Against Sen. Marco Rubio http://ivn.us/2014/12/19/sen-rand-paul-wages-twitter-war-sen-marco-rubio/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/19/sen-rand-paul-wages-twitter-war-sen-marco-rubio/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:21:39 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295655844 Sen. Rand Paul Wages Twitter War Against Sen. Marco Rubio

In response to a blow from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Cuba, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul calls out the Florida Senator both on Facebook and Twitter. Both politicians are potential GOP presidential candidates. Is this what President Obama wanted?

Jane SusskindIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Sen. Rand Paul Wages Twitter War Against Sen. Marco Rubio

In response to a blow from Sen. Marco Rubio on Cuba, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul used Twitter and Facebook to call on the Florida Senator to engage in a debate on the issue. “Let’s be clear that Senator Rubio does not speak for the majority of Cuban-Americans,” Paul stated in a Facebook post.

Both politicians are potential GOP presidential candidates, creating a deep division in the Republican Party before an important presidential election year. Is this what Obama wanted?

Jane SusskindIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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How To Implement Mutual Respect as the Ethic of Justice http://ivn.us/2014/12/19/implement-mutual-respect-ethic-justice/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/19/implement-mutual-respect-ethic-justice/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:29:59 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295654815 How To Implement Mutual Respect as the Ethic of Justice

Liberty and equality, echoing around the world from the Declaration of Independence of what would become the U.S., became the basis of a social architecture that has included personal liberty, political equality, and a market-based economy. Since that Declaration was published, even the most cynical of political thinkers and actors have had to account for those two ideals.

Stephen YearwoodIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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How To Implement Mutual Respect as the Ethic of Justice

Liberty and equality, echoing around the world from the Declaration of Independence of what would become the U.S., became the basis of a social architecture that has included personal liberty, political equality, and a market-based economy. Since that Declaration was published, even the most cynical of political thinkers and actors have had to account for those two ideals. We’ll see below how recognizing mutual respect as the ethic of justice would take justice even further in the same direction that basing it on liberty and equality has taken it.

 

Part 1: A New and Different Monetary System for a Better Economy

 

Actually, mutual respect already exists as an ethic within those ideals. It is implicit in the ideal of equality. In fact, I’ll argue herein that mutual respect is actually responsible for the justness of political democracy. That suggests that explicitly recognizing mutual respect as our communal ethic of justice could only reinforce that cultural bulwark. Likewise, adopting mutual respect as our explicit communal ethic would enhance our cultural goal of maximizing personal liberty. Finally, we’ll see that mutual respect can be applied to the market-based economy as equality per se cannot.

Still, it is understandable that reconsidering what the ethic of justice must be would give most people pause. For one thing, human history provides us with more than one example of the idealistic impulse going terribly wrong. The French Revolution is perhaps the most horrifying example of such tragedy. In England, the revolution that put a final end to the idea of absolute monarchy in that nation ended up with the establishment of the world’s first modern dictatorship. In Russia, the first attempt at establishing a regime based on liberty and equality ended up with the Bolsheviks taking power. Germany’s attempt at institutionalizing democracy and a market-based economy after World War I with the Weimar Republic ended up with Hitler’s being appointed Chancellor. On second thought, maybe the French Revolution isn’t the worst example.

All of that is most edifying. Even so, historical failures in the effort to further justice via a sudden event are no reason to abandon hope in that possibility. We do have the examples of England’s Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution to hearten us. More recently, the fall of the Soviet Empire, the ‘Arab Spring,’ and, most recently, the regime change implemented in Ukraine speak to that possibility. It would seem that the primary lesson to be learned from history is that the attempt to achieve more justice must not exceed practical possibilities.

In any nation with personal liberty, political democracy, and a market-based economy, the only “sudden event” required to implement mutual respect as the ethic of justice would be to institute a new and different monetary system. That would transform the functioning of the market-based economy while leaving intact its defining institutions. Such a monetary system would be revolutionary without being radical. The implications of this ethic of justice for the functioning of the economy are, however, the subject of Part 1 of this essay. Here the subject is a new approach to justice. We must begin with a critique of our current cultural ethos.

The Founding Fathers of the U.S. were Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, et al., but our philosophical godfather was John Locke. He was the English philosopher who wrote the book on liberty and equality as the twin pillars of justice (Two Treatises of Government, published in 1689). In the main, those ideals have served us well (however much we have failed to live up to them in different areas at different times), but after all, it has been more than three centuries since Locke was thinking and writing. Common sense suggests that an update might be in order. More concretely, basing justice on those two ideals raises both theoretical and practical issues.

Liberty was directly equated with justice by Locke in his second Treatise. He began with the idea that injustice is being “subject to the arbitrary will” of another person [avoiding his gender-specific terminology]. Therefore, justice is not being subject to the arbitrary will of another person. Since to be free of the arbitrary will of any other person is to enjoy a state of liberty, he concluded that liberty is justice. It turns out that justice-as-mutual-respect was right there, right then, if only Locke had seen it: if being subject to the arbitrary will of another person is injustice, then each of us must refrain from subjecting any other person to one’s own arbitrary will.

In addition to that more dialectical argument, Locke had liberty as a Natural Right. That is where he got himself entangled in all manner of theoretical and practical problems. [Bertrand Russell asserted that Locke’s success as a philosopher can be attributed to his simply ignoring the contradictions and other complications in his lines of thought.] For starters, how can a Right to liberty—people’s being imbued with permission to run around doing whatever they want—have anything to do with justice?

Locke did evince a very positive view of human nature, as evidenced by his conception of a “State of Nature.” Locke’s immediate predecessor, Thomas Hobbes, famously described life for humans in a world without communities, with individual human beings living on their own, as being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Locke conceived of a vastly more benign State of Nature. Though separate and independent beings, people would interact, engaging in trade, etc. Most of all, they would be living a life of maximum liberty.

Still, Locke had to account for the observation that human beings have always lived together in organized communities. Locke surmised that (despite his idyllic Sate of Nature) human beings surrendered the maximum possible liberty in exchange for greater security and more prosperity (his version of the social contract). The demonstrated social nature of human beings makes any notion of ‘surrendering’ a radically individualized existence utterly absurd, but Locke insisted that the Lost Cause of such an existence must inform the social order.

To assure the benefits of communal life for all there must be law and order. The laws of a community must conform, said Locke, with the “Natural Law.” Within the Natural Law liberty is a “Natural Right” and is constrained by the Natural Rights of (for Locke) person and property: Every person’s liberty ends at the person and property of any other individual. Locke emphasized the applicability of that constraint on liberty across socio-economic lines—with unrecognized implications for government.

For Locke, maximizing liberty must be the organizing principle of a community, to be accomplished by having the minimum laws possible. That proposition is conveyed in another of his famous phrases, “government as Night Watchman.” Consider, however, this illustration of that analogy: If one were in a sketchy part of town late at night and saw, to one’s relief, an officer of the law on the corner, would one rather that individual looked like an NFL linebacker or a ballerina? Pursuant to Locke’s logic, to secure the blessings of communal life for all members of the community, government must be big enough and strong enough to protect the most vulnerable members of the community from any predations of the most powerful in it. Today, the most powerful entities in most nations are large corporations. Within Locke’s way of thinking, the existence of such large, powerful bodies requires a big, strong government. Yet, according to Locke, a big, strong government necessarily constitutes a threat to liberty. That conundrum is a spike in the heart of Locke’s thought.

Finally, basing justice on a priori Rights is inherently self-centered—being all about my rights: my liberty, my property, etc. Perhaps the sorry state of communal civility in the U.S. these days reflects more than two centuries of such egocentrism. Much of postmodernists’ critique of modernity generally and the ‘Enlightenment project’ specifically centers on a lack of regard for ‘the other’ in all contexts; concerning ethics that refers to other people (although Immanuel Kant and G.W.F. Hegel did include mutual respect in some form in their ethics and, as already noted, it is implied in the ideal of equality).

Though Locke included property among the Natural Rights he enumerated, there is even an argument against private property contained his formulation of Natural Rights. If justice is the highest social value, and liberty is justice, how can property trump liberty? The very existence of my property is a limit on your liberty; the more I own, the more your liberty is necessarily limited. [The Declaration of Independence adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776 substituted as a Right “the pursuit of happiness” for “property” because the latter would have raised the issue of slavery, which the Congress had agreed to ignore.]

The ideology that Locke’s ideas generated also recognizes communal rights, including political and legal rights, based on equality. It is in his first Treatise that Locke made a case for equality. His purpose in it was to argue against the doctrine of the Divine Right of monarchs (which says volumes about the difference between the world he lived in and ours). He predicated his argument for human equality on his Christian beliefs. Yet, the Christian Bible nowhere suggests any notion of social, much less political, equality. It only says that rulers (and for that matter slaves’ masters) are as liable before God as their subjects are. That constraint is explicitly included in the doctrine of Divine Right anyway, however much it was ignored by rulers. Even so, the idea of human equality has become firmly embedded in our cultural ethos.

A seismic schism does exist between communal rights based on equality and the a priori Rights of liberty, etc. Whereas the former constrain power by diluting and delimiting it, the latter promote the concentration of unbounded power. As a Right, liberty is a grant to exercise power. Property is a source of power—and the usual means for acquiring it, money, another source of power. As for the pursuit of happiness, according to Dr. Greg Etchason (M.D.), the “drug of choice” of human beings, that which people want most to have, and to have more of it no matter what, is power.

That schism denotes a destabilizing tension deep within the ideology Locke initiated. In nations organized in accordance with that ideology an unsteady social equilibrium has existed atop the fault line along which the concentrated power inherent in that ideology’s a priori Rights presses against communal rights. If an actual rupture were to occur, it would reduce to rubble the social architecture of personal liberty, political democracy, and a market-based economy.

Making mutual respect our explicit communal ethic can resolve those issues within Locke’s approach to justice and accomplish yet more good. We do, however, have to define the domain of justice. Conduct outside its domain would be left to personal morality, such as that provided by one’s religion. Leaving out a few technicalities, we can say that the domain of justice is the realm of effecting choices (choosing among perceived alternatives and taking action to bring those choices to fruition). [Warren J. Samuels discussed ‘social power’ as the ability to effect choices in “Property and Power,” in Perspectives of Property, edited by Gene Wunderlich and W.L. Gibson (1972).]

If we accept that the domain of justice is the realm of effecting choices, the ethic of justice becomes mutual respect in effecting choices. What must be respected specifically is the capacity of all people to choose for themselves. [I address unavoidable hierarchies such as parenting and bossing people at work in my book, A Just Solution, but that is beyond the scope of this essay.]

Mutual respect in effecting choices becomes the definitive, sufficient, prescriptive condition of justice. It tells us how we must act to act justly. The more we take others into account, the more justly we are acting. The minimum, necessary, proscriptive condition of justice draws the line between just and unjust acts. It tells us what we must refrain from doing to keep from acting unjustly. It is this: No one may co-opt any other person in the process of effecting any choice. Anyone’s participation in that process must be conscious, informed, and votive. That means that, as a minimum, people are prohibited from killing, or harming, or coercing, or manipulating, or ignoring the interests of other people who are involved when effecting any choice. [“Manipulating” includes lying, cheating, etc.; “ignoring… ” includes harming or stealing their property in their absence, etc.]

With mutual respect in effecting choices as the ethic of justice we can still assign ourselves communal rights, including a right to private property. (That sure beats having to defend whatever one has or whatever ground one happens to be occupying against all comers.) On the other hand, the idea of a priori Rights, including a Right to liberty, is rendered null and void. With all people abiding by the minimum condition of justice, this ethic would provide the maximum liberty that coexisting people can enjoy simultaneously. That tells us that, properly understood, liberty is the product of justice, not its source, or foundation, or predicate, etc.

The mutual respect implicit in the ideal of human equality already exists as the true source of the justice in political democracy. The political process can be defined as the process of effecting choices for the community as a whole. The political system, then, is the set of institutions within which choices are effected for the community as a whole—with the offices of government as its functional core. With justice as mutual respect in effecting choices, every member of the community must be allowed to participate in the political process because everyone is affected by the choices effected within it.

Political speech is the part of the political process that transcends the political system. That tells us that political speech is something more than a right, but is its own element of justice in the political process. (Rights regarding other forms of expression must be decided in the political process.) Hence, liberty of political speech becomes the first condition of justice for the political process. That means it must be open to everyone in the community and cannot be externally constrained. Anything other than rational persuasion does violate the injunction against co-option, however, meaning lying and other forms of manipulation—much less coercion in any form—when participating in the political process must be renounced. [If there is something exceptional about the genesis of the U.S., it is that its formation came at the end of an extended period of (enough) liberty of political speech in which justice in governance could be robustly debated by—well, mostly older men of European descent—but the point is that those who in turn will have to live with the form of governance they would create must have the opportunity to express their ideas about the structure and intended functioning it should have (a lesson lost on contemporary efforts at nation-building)].

With liberty of political speech as the first condition of justice for a just political process, the second condition of justice is a democratic distribution of political rights. For present purposes let’s say that means that those rights are required for no one to exercise yet are available to all members of the community, but for non-arbitrary restrictions. Only a restriction which can be universally applicable can be non-arbitrary. Thus, age is a legitimate restriction on political rights, but gender and ethnicity are not. As for creed, the beliefs of every human being are arbitrary from the point of view of any other person with different beliefs; therefore, though any creed is potentially universal, creed cannot be used in determining the distribution of political rights.

With liberty of political speech and a democratic distribution of political rights, a just political process becomes a vehicle for procedural justice: the justness of the process produces just results. Beyond that, however, the conditions of justice for that process stand as constraints on conduct and outcomes in the process: the process may not be corrupted by unjust actions and may not result in outcomes which violate liberty of political speech or the democratic distribution of political rights.

To realize the conditions of justice for the economy we can use the political process as a template. As in the political process, liberty must come first: People must be free to decide how—and to what extent—they will participate in the economy. Similarly, the best way to get at the second condition of justice for the economy is to consider the second condition of justice in the political system. We can say that money is to the economic system as political rights are to the political system: It is the source of social power necessary to participate in it. That is true even of a barter economy. In that case the people involved in any exchange are producing their own media of exchange, their own ‘money.’ In a money-based economy with legal tender such activity will be limited. Justice in a monetary economy requires the existence of a democratically distributed (sufficient) income. (In a barter economy the means of production would be at issue.)

Like democratically distributed political rights, a democratically distributed income would be one which was available to all members of the community but for non-arbitrary restrictions, such as age. One way to institute a democratically distributed income would be to have that income be the money supply for the economy. That is to say, the money supply would originate as the incomes of certain individuals. A monetary system of that kind is the subject of Part 1 of this essay.

Justice has always been the hopeful expectation of human beings. Over the millennia, the cause of justice has advanced, however uncertainly. To recognize mutual respect in effecting choices as the ethic of justice would be another step forward. Applying that ethic of justice to life would maximize liberty, reinforce political democracy, and transform, while retaining, the market-based economy.

For more, see www.ajustsolution.com.

 Image: MSU

Stephen YearwoodIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Medical Marijuana Shops Still At Risk Despite Provision in Spending Bill http://ivn.us/2014/12/19/medical-marijuana-shops-still-risk-despite-provision-spending-bill/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/19/medical-marijuana-shops-still-risk-despite-provision-spending-bill/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:49:13 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295655565 Medical Marijuana Shops Still At Risk Despite Provision in Spending Bill

Since the spending bill had to pass both houses of Congress before landing on the president's desk, the inclusion of this provision shows changing attitudes among both Democrats and Republicans, according to Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Medical Marijuana Shops Still At Risk Despite Provision in Spending Bill

The federal government signaled a truce with marijuana advocates in two landmark decisions.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Native American tribes can grow and sell marijuana on their lands in a December 11 statement, while President Obama signed a federal spending bill into law on Tuesday which includes a provision protecting medical marijuana.

Since the spending bill had to pass both houses of Congress before landing on the president’s desk, the inclusion of this provision shows changing attitudes among both Democrats and Republicans, according to Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

“It’s a real game-changer,” Collins said. “For the first time ever, both parties in Congress recognize that states should be setting their own medical marijuana policies. It’s a recognition of the validity of medical marijuana as a treatment, and it’s an effort to end federal prohibition of medical marijuana. It gives us great hope for ending federal prohibition of marijuana for all uses.”

The provision discourages federal drug agents from raiding state-legalized medical marijuana operations. It also represents the culmination of years of work, according to Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“We’ve been trying to get this bill passed since 2003, and the fact that it finally did is indicative of steadily changing attitudes in Congress and nationally among voters,” Fox said.

That’s not to say these operations are entirely in the clear — marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and federal agents have other tools with which to make things difficult on growers and sellers.

“Feds effectively use the threat of civil forfeiture to get private land owners to evict and/or not lease to cannabis-related businesses,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “A great number of these medical cannabis businesses are cash-only businesses, because federal banking regulations still deter banks from doing business with these new cannabis-related businesses, and money laundering opens up prosecution opportunities for feds.”

"Feds effectively use the threat of civil forfeiture to get private land owners to evict and/or not lease to cannabis-related businesses."Allen St. Pierre, NORML
It’s also worth noting that these changes are happening as America heads toward another presidential election, according to Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

“While the Obama Administration currently tolerates marijuana legalization in states with ‘strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems,’  the next administration may have a different approach to marijuana,” Kilmer said.

Meanwhile, the announcement that Native American tribes can grow and sell the drug on their lands — provided they follow the same federal guidelines as have been laid out for states pursuing legalization — came as a surprise to many advocates.

“No one at NORML or other drug policy reform groups knows the impetus for this sudden change in cannabis policy directed at Native American tribes,” St. Pierre said. “Speculation is that a number of tribes in states with medical cannabis and tax-and-regulate access have been seeking clarity from the Department of Justice regarding what if any commerce can they engage in re cannabis?”

In addition to being an economic benefit, marijuana could provide a health benefit for tribes in a position to grow and sell, Fox said.

“By making marijuana legal for adults on their territory, Native American groups have an opportunity to increase public health and safety,” he said. “In addition, tribes could create jobs and tax revenue while taking advantage of tourism. Many groups are in a position to do this long before the states within which their territories reside, all while giving their members a safer legal alternative to alcohol.”

Even after these strides toward legalization, advocates have big plans for the year to come.

“While not expected to move in Republican-controlled Congress and Senate, there will be upwards of 17 re-entered or new legislative bills introduced in 2015 dealing with cannabis, ranging from ending the federal cannabis prohibition, to re-scheduling for medical/research only, industrial hemp, sentencing reform, banking regulations, creation of national commission to end cannabis prohibition, etc.,” St. Pierre said. “Again, none are expected to move in the Congress. Reformers will be delighted to even be given hearings by the majority.”

Editor’s note: The policy only discourages federal agencies from raiding medical marijuana dispensaries it does not explicitly prohibit such action.

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Net Neutrality, Immigration, and Cuba: Obama Playing GOP Like a Fiddle http://ivn.us/2014/12/18/net-neutrality-immigration-cuba-obama-playing-gop-like-fiddle/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/18/net-neutrality-immigration-cuba-obama-playing-gop-like-fiddle/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 22:09:08 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295655772 Net Neutrality, Immigration, and Cuba: Obama Playing GOP Like a Fiddle

Consider what all has transpired since the midterm elections. President Obama has taken aggressive action on issues like net neutrality, immigration, and now the embargo on Cuba. All of these topics are major wedge issues within the Republican Party and the actions the president has taken has forced a response from some very outspoken Republicans, some of whom have future presidential ambitions.

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Net Neutrality, Immigration, and Cuba: Obama Playing GOP Like a Fiddle

“[T]he agreement the Obama Administration has entered into with the Castro regime has done nothing to resolve the underlying problem. Indeed, it has made it worse.” – U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), December 17, 2014

 

“The power of free expression, free movement, and free markets is much more likely to advance Cuba toward freedom than the failed policy of isolation.” – U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), December 18, 2014

 

“Concession to a tyranny.” – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), December 17, 2014

 

“If the goal is regime change, [the embargo] sure doesn’t seem to be working and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.” – U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), December 18, 2014

On Wednesday, December 17, President Barack Obama announced a shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba; specifically, the president is going to do everything that is within his authority to expand the nation’s diplomatic and economic relationship with the Caribbean island.

Immediately following this announcement, which came in the wake of a prisoner exchange between the two countries, some Republicans came out and vehemently opposed the policy shift. Most notably, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio (both sons of Cuban immigrants) made the media rounds to talk about how President Obama has appeased the nation’s enemies once again.

However, this is an issue that not all Republicans are in an agreement on and can even be considered a major wedge issue that has lied dormant until Obama’s announcement. Rand Paul, for instance, is the first potential Republican presidential candidate to speak positively of the policy shift.

Additionally, Republican U.S. Representative Justin Amash, who is known best for his willingness to look beyond the party line and his efforts to increase transparency in Congress by posting his votes on social media, spoke in favor of the policy shift in a Facebook status update.

“I support the announced shift from isolationism to a more pragmatic engagement with Cuba. The Cuban people have the right to govern themselves and deserve to live in a country that is ruled by law, not the whim of a dictator. We can more readily help Cubans establish liberty through policies that open dialogue, travel, and trade.” – U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.)

Consider what all has transpired since the midterm elections. President Obama has taken strong stances on issues like net neutrality, immigration, and now the embargo on Cuba. All of these topics are major wedge issues within the Republican Party and the actions the president has taken have coerced a response from some very outspoken Republicans, some of whom have future presidential ambitions.

Once staunch allies in the ongoing battle against the agendas of Harry Reid and Barack Obama, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are probably the biggest examples of how Republicans are being wedged apart now that the GOP has full control of Congress and there is not a Democratic majority to collaberately fight against.

Paul will most certainly run for president in 2016 and some have suggested that Cruz may make a run for the Oval Office as well. However, they are incorporating two different strategies going into the presidential election year. Cruz is sticking to his hardline stance against Obama’s policies while Paul is attempting to hold on to the libertarian-esque principles that have broad support within the electorate and accomodate more Republicans at the same time.

In an article published on Wednesday, IVN contributor and author Michael Austin said Obama is the only president who can go to Cuba if the nation is going to shift its policy toward the country. Why? Mostly because politically Obama has nothing to lose.

“In his last two years in office, Barack Obama is politically unpressurable. He will never run for anything again. He has already lost the House and the Senate. And he knows that the current Congress will work tirelessly to frustrate and embarrass him in any way that they possibly can. And since a substantial portion of the country already believes that he is a Kenyan-born Muslim terrorist who drinks the blood of young children, being called “soft on communism” is just not that big of a deal. He has nothing to gain by avoiding controversy.” – Michael Austin, “Only Obama Can Go to Cuba”

This is getting to the heart of the politics behind Obama’s decisions lately, but there is something even deeper going on. It is about politics, but there is more to it.

Obama has unfinished business that has no shot of getting through a Republican-controlled Congress, he has a legacy to solidify, the prisoner exchange offered the best opening for diplomatic talks with Cuba, and there is something else no one is talking about: Obama is looking ahead to the 2016 presidential election.

Creating division in the GOP, which will most certainly surface in the Republican presidential primary, will keep candidates who might appeal to voters outside the party’s base, like Rand Paul, from getting the nomination — something the Democratic Party wants. Democrats don’t want the GOP to nominate a candidate who is increasingly more popular with minority voters, Millennials, independents, cross-party voters, and other segments of the electorate the Democrats need to assure victory.

Sure, Obama may want to get done everything he thinks he can get done in the next two years without congressional approval to build his legacy. However, it cannot be ignored that the issues the president is acting most aggressively on are also issues that create a wedge in the Republican Party, and he is acting on these issues before the 2016 presidential election begins.

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Our Enemies’ Agenda of Anarchy http://ivn.us/2014/12/18/enemies-agenda-anarchy/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/18/enemies-agenda-anarchy/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:18:59 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295655260 Our Enemies’ Agenda of Anarchy

In today’s America, money has purchased the power to pollute our land, while safe and profitable (i.e. legitimate) uses of our land and natural resources — like the Keystone Pipeline -- are completely shut down. It seems like every day brings Americans more and more into the Twilight Zone, and further and further away from the republic our Founders gave us.

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Our Enemies’ Agenda of Anarchy

“Anarchy—shall I say, is the worst of all governments? No: Anarchy is the absence of all government; it is the antipodes [opposite] of order; it is the acme of confusion; it is the result of unbridled license, the antipodes of true liberty. The Apostle Paul says truly: ‘For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.’ At first this is a startling statement. Even the monopoly of the one-man-power as in Russia [the Czar], or the monopoly of the aristocracy as in other parts of Europe, or the imbecility and sometimes stupidity of a republic like our own, is far better than no government at all…” –U.S. Western Colonizer, Erastus Snow, 1881

Who is NOT angry at the news stories ricocheting across America? Police are arresting those feeding the homeless; innocent kids are being shot; excessive force by police seems to be the new norm; all while the president decrees amnesty in disregard to the Constitution with Congress doing nothing.

In today’s America, money has purchased the power to pollute our land, while safe and profitable (i.e. legitimate) uses of our land and natural resources — like the Keystone Pipeline — are completely shut down. It seems like every day brings Americans more and more into the Twilight Zone, and further and further away from the republic our Founders gave us.

Scientists tell us that it’s the brain’s Orbitofrontal Cortex which stops humans from knee-jerk impulses in decision-making. These impulses can be anywhere from over-eating, making purchases, or saying something inappropriate to a person of the opposite sex. In the spiritual world, we call this bridling your passions, or keeping covenant-derived boundaries around one’s desires, appetites, and passions.

In the movie popular with the liberty-minded, V for Vendetta, the story follows a shadow-hero named “V” as he inspires physical rebellion and anarchy among a people (England) under tyrannical control. But the suggestion to the American people that chaos is the solution to current tyranny doesn’t end there. Yes, there are the obvious media personalities who promote anarchy and civil unrest, such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, but there are also more elusive personalities.

Alex Jones and InfoWars.com is sure to get your blood pumping with anger, while presenting solutions in the form of videos and merchandise to purchase. This breeds more anger, sapping the intellectual lifeblood of awareness to actual solutions.

Alex Jones does a good job of informing the listener of the problem, but then asks his show’s listenership to sacrifice doing on the altar of knowing, in hopes that by now your addiction to anger leaves you handicapped. Today, Alex Jones’ InfoWars Magazine artwork is akin to a Meatloaf or Iron Maiden album cover.

And InfoWars is the big media outlet in the business of pointing out everything that’s wrong. There’s hundreds and even thousands of smaller establishments that duplicate and/or replicate InfoWars. (As much as I like Chuck Baldwin, he perpetuates much of this same message).

Let me ask, is your personal endgame to InfoWars news you being sick to your stomach? Is the finale result of the message spite or hatred? Our enemies would hope so.

Has the French Revolution taught us anything, or are Americans so naïve to think that nothing like what we are going through now has every happened in history? As a very quick history lesson, in the years 1789-1799 France went from fighting tyranny to fighting anarchy (and the bloodbath that ensued), and finally settling on Napoleon Bonaparte and a period of military rule (tyranny).

The reason for the final ending: French citizens who had lived through both tyranny AND anarchy preferred tyranny.

Make no mistake, our enemies want us fearful, angry, rebellious, and (if possible) violent. Our enemies are not only whittling away at the Constitution, they are whittling away at your desire for a peaceful resolve, the patriotic Orbitofrontal Cortex of you and I.

Jesus lived in a time of creeping tyranny too, yet said, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him…” (Matt 5:25) It is true that as time progressed, he added, “…But now…he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” (Luke 22:36)

I, and we in the IAP, totally and completely advocate defending a direct attack on your life, liberty and property with necessary force. But as a society, we cannot get caught up in the intent of the media and others condoning and even advertising violence and anarchy as the solution.

Anger breeds anger. Ferguson is a good example of this.

Michael Brown had just robbed a store. The store owner would have been within his God-given rights to defend his property. Then, moments later. he was killed in the streets by a police officer under circumstances which are speculative. A grand jury was convened to decide if charges should be brought up against officer Darren Wilson, with the determination being, “no.”

Many didn’t agree with the verdict, and so there’s the fork in the road in the discernment of We the People. Does one in disagreement agree with their adversary quickly, or make the determination that it’s time to use my “sword,” to burn, riot, and destroy someone else’s property?

Our enemies, with their military industrial complexes, are counting on mass rioting. They EXPECT anarchy. Their plan is to incite it! And they are confident that their plans will come to fruition.

In the French Revolution, the people went from tyranny to anarchy to tyranny, and nothing was ever improved upon while hundreds of thousands of lives were lost. In OUR case, more is at stake!

If we incite anarchy, our enemies will have license to bring in full-blown tyranny, and we will have went from a republic to anarchy to tyranny, and THEN we won’t be able to bring back our republic except at the cost of a duplicate American Revolution. For in the words of godly Constitutionalist J. Reuben Clark:

“I say to you that the price of liberty is and always has been blood, human blood, and if our liberties are lost, we shall never regain them except at the price of blood. They must not be lost.”

There may come a time when the solution will be with the sword, but that will only be in defense of life, liberty, property, our wives, our children, and our religion — all that we hold near and dear. The sword of true patriotic, independent Americans will never be wielded for anarchy causes, or to incite hatred, division, or revenge.

Today, the solution is actively educating, inviting and presenting solutions to the minds and hearts of 1) those in authority today, and 2) those we are advocating to be in authority tomorrow. This is in addition to the abolition of political parties, which are magnets for divisiveness, love of power, and winning at all costs (the Spirit of Party).

What Americans REALLY desire is enough law to protect life, liberty, and property, while also NOT being abusive or oppressive— in other words, a republic! In 1887, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin on the streets of Philadelphia, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”

“A Republic…” replied Franklin “…if you can keep it.”

To finish Erastus Snow’s comments from the beginning of this article:

“…And for this reason, says the Apostle Paul, ‘The powers are ordained of God,’ not that they are always the best forms of government for the people, or that they afford liberty and freedom to mankind, but that any and all forms of government are better than none at all, having a tendency as they do to restrain the passions of human nature and to curb them, and to establish and maintain order to a greater or less degree. One monopoly is better than many; and the oppression of a king is tolerable, but the oppression of a mob, where every man is a law to himself and his own right arm is his power to enforce his own will, is the worst form of government.”

Editor’s note: This article was originially published on December 8, 2014 on IndependentAmericanParty.org and has been edited for publication on IVN.

Photo Credit: 1000 Words / shutterstock.com

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Was It Worth It: Failing to Quickly Eliminate bin Laden http://ivn.us/2014/12/18/was-it-worth-it-failing-to-quickly-eliminate-bin-laden/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/18/was-it-worth-it-failing-to-quickly-eliminate-bin-laden/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:54:01 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295655474 Was It Worth It: Failing to Quickly Eliminate bin Laden

In an eerie foreshadowing of events, former-President Bill Clinton discussed his angst over not assassinating bin Laden in 1998 with the media just a few short hours before the 9/11 attacks. Clinton stated that he wanted to assassinate bin Laden, but could not justify the cost to civilian lives (estimated at over 300 casualties).

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Was It Worth It: Failing to Quickly Eliminate bin Laden

On a top secret mission on May 1, 2011 (UTC), Navy SEALs crossed deep into Pakistani territory to attack a compound suspected to be occupied by Osama bin Laden in Abottabad, Pakistan.

Since 2004, American forces had attacked targets in Pakistan, but almost exclusively operated in rural northwest Pakistan just inside the border from Afghanistan. The justification being that this semi-autonomous, rural area lacked proper control by the Pakistani authorities — cross border raids were too big of a threat to American security.

This attack was different; it was deep inside of Pakistan’s northeast region, in a major metropolitan area (more than 1 million residents), and had political stability from the military and national government.

SEALs stormed the compound, killing 5 people including bin Laden — with no loss of American life.

But what took so long? What are the long term geopolitical effects of our midnight raid?

Was it worth it? Waiting for almost 10 years to attack bin Laden when we clearly had him on the run in 2002?

Early Attempts to Assassinate bin Laden

As early as 1991, the CIA had been keeping tabs on Osama bin Laden in Sudan as a potential national security threat.

George Tenet, a former CIA director, noted in his memoirs that “as early as 1993, [the CIA] had declared bin Laden to be a significant financier backer of Islamic terrorist movements. We knew he was funding paramilitary training of Arab religious militants in such far-flung places as Bosnia, Egypt, Kashmir, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, and Yemen.”

"By 1998, there was no doubt in the State Department or American intelligence agencies that bin Laden posed a significant threat to the United States."
In 1996, bin Laden moved his base of operations from Sudan to Afghanistan. The Sudanese government saw bin Laden as a liability and expelled him and 150 others from the country. From Afghanistan, bin Laden created an ideal haven for terrorist training grounds, command structure, and bases of operation.

As a result of solid American intelligence, it was discovered that bin Laden was directing al-Qaeda actives using a satellite phone. This knowledge allowed the CIA and NSA to track bin Laden’s movements and identify high ranking al-Qaeda members. The CIA was able to capitalize on this mistake until 1998 when al-Qaeda became privy to the intercepts.

By 1998, there was no doubt in the State Department or American intelligence agencies that bin Laden posed a significant threat to the United States. The embassy bombings of August 1998 only further confirmed that al-Qaeda was seeking larger targets and becoming more sophisticated in its attacks.

In an eerie foreshadowing of events, former-President Bill Clinton discussed his angst over not assassinating bin Laden in 1998 with the media just a few short hours before the 9/11 attacks. Clinton stated that he wanted to assassinate bin Laden, but could not justify the cost to civilian lives (estimated at over 300 casualties).

We knew bin Laden was growing bolder and more aggressive — was concern over 300 civilian casualties worth the combined deaths of 9/11?

Post 9/11: The Shift Away from Hunting bin Laden

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, President George W. Bush repeatedly stated that capturing or killing bin Laden was America’s top priority.

Yet, by March 2002, Bush would criticize those who were still focusing on bin Laden:

Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he’s alive at all. Who knows if he’s hiding in some cave or not; we haven’t heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is — really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission.

 

Terror is bigger than one person. And he’s just — he’s a person who’s now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed.

In fairness, Bush was proven correct in that no further major attacks would be attributed to bin Laden. But the change in strategy and focus allowed al-Qaeda to redistribute forces (namely to Iraq) and eventually to rebrand itself into the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS).

But Bush was also correct that the problem was bigger than one man. In 2002, the American-led forces had al-Qaeda forces on the run. The change in strategy not only kept us from capturing/killing bin Laden, but it also kept us from completely destroying the al-Qaeda terrorism network in Afghanistan — and that continues to haunt American foreign policy, even today.

Two Foreign Policy Disasters: Iraq and Pakistan

Easing pressure on al-Qaeda gave the organization two avenues for escape –following us into Iraq and establishing operations in the semi-autonomous, tribal-regions of northwest Pakistan. Both Iraq and Pakistan gave al-Qaeda the chance to regroup and to re-engage American-led forces, who were in much better shape than the full-retreat and confusion that existed in the early weeks of the attack.

A large book could be written about the foreign policy complications in Iraq, but Pakistan is much more simple and direct, and resulted in damaging relations with a long time ally and secular government in the region.

American relations with Pakistan have been “hot and cold” since its founding after WWII. Since WWII, Pakistan’s military has been heavily dependent on American technology. Pakistan was forced to reassess this dependency during the late 1980s and early 1990s because of an American policy (the Pressler Amendment) requiring certification of Pakistan’s non-nuclear status.

While Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush both largely ignored the Pressler Amendment, Pakistan began diversifying its military spending with large purchases from France (mainly naval technology) and joint ventures with China (mainly in the form of aircraft development).

The importance of this: by 9/11, Pakistan was already taking large proactive steps to ween itself from American military hardware and aid.

Immediately following the military coup in 1999, American policy was typically one of non-comment toward the ousting of a democratically elected government. Once needed to assist in our objectives in Afghanistan, America paid a substantial aid package (estimated at over $30 billion over ten years) to gain Pakistan’s cooperation, giving de facto legitimacy to the military government.

While early stages of the deal were seen as beneficial to the United States, Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters began using areas in Pakistan under tribal rule as safe havens. With the inability or reluctance of Pakistan’s government to destroy them, American forces began a substantial drone campaign.

At between 250-400 missions, civilian loss of life has been estimated by several watchdog groups to be between 300-1,200 lives.

The long-term effects on foreign policy:

  • We had already alienated Pakistan through the Pressler Amendments (and earlier trade/aid policies tied to uranium enrichment);
  • They had already found other means of military development by the time of the coup and then 9/11;
  • They accepted the aid package and alliance to legitimize their coup and consolidate control;
  • They were put into a social and political no-win situation with the insurgent use of semi-autonomous tribal lands (as noted by recent events, Pakistan deals with its own insurgency problems independent of ours);
  • Our drone strikes violated their sovereignty and portrayed their military as helpless;
  • They tried to downplay drone strikes as border incursions;
  • The attack on bin Laden’s compound was seen as far more than a border incursion and uncovered embarrassing information on the Pakistani government’s knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts;
  • American aid to Pakistan sharply increases as political tensions worsen–even though our own forces were already drawing down;
  • Widespread allegations of fraud and abuse of American aid given to Pakistan emerge–including allegations of military aid being used to shore up civilian budgets;
  • From 2011-2014, American aid peaks, then sharply falls to levels lower than 2002 levels; and
  • Pakistan continues to strengthen military and economic ties with China — instead of the aid packages being seen as a measure of long-term goodwill, they were seen (probably by both sides) as payment for the “insult” to national sovereignty.

So in effect, we paid $30 billion to use their airspace for the initial attack on Afghanistan, and then for “political payment” for insulting their national sovereignty with drone attacks, with little to no gain in a long-term restored relationship with Pakistan.

Was it worth it?

Beginning in 1992, on at least four occasions, the CIA developed plans for assassinating bin Laden — all rejected without much policy debate. That is the real failure of not assassinating him sooner.

"The problem was, there was no inter-agency debate and sharing of information with the executive branch or congressional oversight committees."
I’m definitely not for a government that wildly goes around the world assassinating world leaders, but we had very clear intelligence that “connected the dots” of bin Laden’s plans well in advance of his attacks on 9/11. The problem was, there was no inter-agency debate and sharing of information with the executive branch or congressional oversight committees — no one agency held all of the “dots” to connect.

While Bush tried to combat this with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, there is little to no evidence that the policy debate and information sharing has really increased. Realizing that good intelligence work is often never publicly known, the DHS has kept America on a constant level of “elevated to high” risk (regardless of the system employed) since 9/11 with really no objective evidence as to why.

Poor/incomplete intelligence causes intelligence leaders to make wrong choices. Indecision only delays the problem for another day.

We need a government that reacts to real threats, in meaningful ways–that maximizes public engagement while maintaining national security and secrecy. I’m not sure we’ve learned this lesson.

Photo Credit: Mr Pics / Shutterstock.com

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What Does Putin Have to Say? http://ivn.us/2014/12/17/putin-say/ http://ivn.us/2014/12/17/putin-say/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 03:25:08 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295655740 What Does Putin Have to Say?

Thursday, December 18 marks probably the most important press conference of Vladimir Putin’s political career as president of the Russian Federation. One thing is certain, he has amazing publicists and isn’t afraid of touting his successes and blaming others for the failures: But … Continued

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What Does Putin Have to Say?

Thursday, December 18 marks probably the most important press conference of Vladimir Putin’s political career as president of the Russian Federation. One thing is certain, he has amazing publicists and isn’t afraid of touting his successes and blaming others for the failures:

But with a currency at almost free fall levels and oil prices far below state-projected revenue levels–just what is he going to do about it?

My own speculation for the past year has been that Putin only had to hold out until the winter for everything to blow over with the political nightmare in the Ukraine. Russian strategy has always been tied to the winter–today is no different. Large parts of Eastern Europe (and even central Europe) are dependent on Russian oil and gas for heating–sanctions were simply not going to last past the need for keeping the public’s homes warm.

I’m interested in the press conference tomorrow. Putin has always been a slippery character–nothing ever holds him down. But his policies in the Ukraine, Crimea, and Syria have backed him into a corner where he’d have to play his final ace in energy–and that ace is losing power fast.

Eastern Europe is still going to need the energy this year–but at incredibly lower prices in hard currency (transactions of oil are almost always denominated in dollars). Real injections of hard currency is going to be the only answer to the currency crisis.

And to make matters worse–he has even more foreign policy fires to put out.

The Ukraine is still far from over–with congressional approval for even more sanctions being signed into law by President Obama this week.

ISIS has been making a deliberate attempt to move into Chechnya, with some sources estimating thousands of Chechen fighters already operating with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State making an overt move on Chechnya (while definitely splitting the continuity of their territory) would be a significant advancement for the movement against a world power.

ISIS in Syria continues to jeopardize Russian naval activities in the Mediterranean, with Russia having a “Material-Technical Support Point” (usually just known as a “base,” but that’s politics) in Tartus.

And probably the most significant political insult–Obama’s announcement about beginning normalization with Cuba.

It seems rather unlikely that the announcement of better Cuban/US relations was anything but exploiting Russia’s current weakness–what better time to snatch away their most significant ally in the Western Hemisphere?

Putin has a lot to answer for–but he is also trapped and dangerous. There’s simply no way to predict what he’s going to say tomorrow.

Image source: Public domain via Kremlin press service

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http://ivn.us/2014/12/17/putin-say/feed/ 7 What Does Putin Have to Say? - IVN.us Thursday, December 18 marks probably the most important press conference of Vladimir Putin's political career as president of the Russian Federation. One thing is certain, he has amazing publicists and isn't afraid of touting his successes and blaming others for the failures: But with a currency