Won’t Get Fooled Again

March 6, 2013

Won’t Get Fooled Again: The False Right/Left Duopoly and War

 

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is the last line in The Who’s popular 1970s song “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  Pete Townshend is articulating that as much as we think things will change, they stay the same. When it comes to U.S. foreign policy and war, the American people are fooled again, and again, regardless of which political party is in power.

 

We went to war to fight terrorism under President Bush, and continue to stay at war under President Obama. If Mitt Romney won the election, we would still be at war. It doesn’t make a difference which political party is in power.

 

Many Americans are focused on trying to financially scrape by, or simply raise children; others are looking for the next new electronic gadget, or just enthralled by the multi-media culture of entertainment.

 

As I write this article, the Super Bowl is on this weekend, and millions of people around the world will watch the spectacular extravaganza.  I always watched the Super Bowl for the clever commercials.  I still remember the 1984 Apple Super Bowl commercial based upon Orwell’s 1984.

 

In the meantime, while we are either too distracted or too entertained, our government is also busy, implementing our interventionist foreign policy. I’ve lost count as to how many countries we now occupy, but I will mention a few.

 

We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for well over a decade. Everyone knows why we are fighting in Afghanistan. Well, not everyone. I don’t know why we are still there. I asked a colleague, he doesn’t know why we are there either. Looking for answers, I asked my students, they have no idea. Osama bin Laden is dead (I think).

 

Many forget that bin Laden was once an ally to the U.S. when Russia was at war with Afghanistan. The BBC and others report that through the CIA, we provided money, arms, and training to bin Laden and essentially helped create al-Qaeda. Today, our official position is that we are at war with al-Qaeda, right?

 

According to the New York Times, al-Qaeda is aiding rebels in the fight to overthrow Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. The Obama administration supports the rebels and seeks to have Assad removed. Amazing, it appears that the United States is on the same side as al-Qaeda. Keeping up with whose side we are supposed to be on is not an easy task.

 

When will our involvement with continual regime change and the war on terror end? The answer is never. The-powers-that-be want it to continue. Sociologists C. Wright Mills used the term “power elite” to explain those who truly run this country. The war serves the special interests of the powerful. They depend on the expanding Military Industrial Complex, which President Eisenhower warned us about decades ago. Although our country is experiencing war fatigue, and most Americans want us out of Afghanistan, we’re still there.

 

Michael Scheuer, former CIA bin Laden Unit Chief, tells us that the terrorism experienced by the U.S. is not due to Muslims hating America because we are free or prosperous. They hate us because we occupy their countries. The CIA has a term for this: it’s called blow back. How would we feel if China or Russia were dropping bombs on us and stationed their tanks and weapons along the Susquehanna River?

 

We are now told that Iran is a threat, and have imposed serious sanctions. This is a step toward war. I think we need to ask, why is our government pushing us into war with Iran? The current mantra is  “they have the potential to develop a nuclear weapon.” I find it hard to believe that we ended the Cold War with 40,000 Russian nukes pointed at us, but our government and media continually remind us that a country with no air force, or a single nuke, is a vital threat to our national security. But we are also told that Iran is a threat to Israel, who only has 400 nuclear weapons. The last time Iran invaded a country was in 1798.

 

Time and space does not permit me to mention the additional destruction we cause in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.  I will say, that according to the Global Research Center,  “America’s Drone War” has killed 168 children in Pakistan alone. Do our political leaders cry for those dead children? Other countries are angry with us and see the U.S. bombing as acts of terrorism. The continual attacks on other countries, do not make us safer, in fact, it weakens our national security.

 

In the 2012 primary presidential debates, when candidates were asked their solution to war, Ron Paul responded that we should implement the Golden Rule: treat others as we would want to be treated. The auditorium, packed with Republicans, responded with a reverberation of boos at the Golden Rule suggestion.

 

In spite of all the war, Americans are disinterested. Where are all the anti-war activists? Back in the mid-2000s, I remember the large anti-war protests and the progressive left calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. People were angry about what we were doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Where are the angry voices today? I can tell you that a not word, not a peep, is mentioned on our college campus concerning our involvement in undeclared wars; not a lecture, not a forum, no anti-war speakers, protests or angry articles. The silence is painful.

 

Our current military expenditures are more than all others combined, spending over a trillion dollars a year. We should ask ourselves, how many highways, hospitals, and schools could we have built with those tax dollars? We have over 700 bases in 135 countries around the world. Yet, we still seek to expand our empire.

 

Under President Bush, Republicans used “the war on terror” as justification for war. We are still fighting the war on terror and have expanded our presence across the globe. President Obama’s decision to invade other countries gets the same cover, sometimes with a leftist spin: we are doing it for humanitarian reasons or spreading democracy.

 

Our continual occupation and meddling in other countries’ affairs increases the risk of terrorism. Our presence is the problem. Will the American public “be fooled again” into believing the next military entanglement is vital to our national security?

 

The job of our government is to keep us out of war, not find new ones.

 

 

 

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Put Your Hands Up

November 19, 2012

We’ve become passive and we don’t even know it.

Do you remember the good old days when traveling was fun? You arrived at the airport and just got on a plane. Most of the time it was easy. Once, my ride from Santa Cruz to the San Francisco Airport did not work out. I had to take a bus, and then a taxi to the airport last minute, which made me late. Rushing into the airport, I looked at the departure board and my plane was on time, taking off in 15 minutes. I ran to the gate, and then to the plane, as they were shutting the door. The kind, pretty lady let me onto the plane. Are there still kind, pretty ladies at the airport?

Due to the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), traveling today is much different.  It’s become a dehumanizing experience. We are told, “Put your hands up and spread your legs,” as we step into the scanning machines. If the machine goes off, you have no choice but submit to a pat down (in any other context, it would be considered sexual assault) or receive an escort out of the airport.

The intrusive pat down has become accepted and normalized by the American public.  Disturbingly, not only do adults cognitively accept this as the new normal, but we also allow TSA agents to touch our children in inappropriate ways. What happened to “bad touch?” One woman, recently, was arrested and convicted of disorderly conduct because she refused to have her teenage daughter touched by a TSA agent.

The media reports a few of the horror stories. Recently, Michelle Dunaj who is critically ill with leukemia was told to lift up her shirt, so the TSA agent could see her feeding tubes. When asked, she was denied the request to do the search in a more private place.  Ms. Dunaj was dying and making one last trip to say her goodbyes. Another traveler had his grandfather’s ashes accidently spilled when the TSA agent swished her finger around the contents. The TSA agent thought it was funny and laughed. Apparently, although passengers are forbidden to joke with TSA agents, the agents are permitted to share their sense of humor with travelers.

What are the exact rules when interacting with the TSA?  I don’t think we’re supposed to make eye contact. Or is it, we are supposed to look at them in the eye when they speak to us? I’m not sure which sort of eye movement will make an individual a target of further investigation or get arrested. Are we allowed to ask questions? I don’t think so. Step aside.

Computer security expert, Bruce Schneier, calls it “security theater.” He says the current security at airports is supposed to make us feel safer, but actually does the opposite. The focus on removing our belts and shoes and dumping out children’s cough syrup, takes attention away from detecting something that could actually be a threat.

What about the right to privacy? Maybe that is only for the elite. Those with private planes are not required to go through the same searches as the rest of us. If I were rich, I would own a private plane.

If you are concerned about the x-ray level of radiation exposure, you may want to find another way to travel. There simply is not enough data on the long-term consequences of radiation exposure to the machines to say they are harmless. These machines are banned in Europe, but are promoted in the U.S. as safe. It is interesting to note, former Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, is now a lobbyist for Rapiscan Systems, one of the companies that makes the nude body scanners. It really is a small world.

Israel has effectively addressed flying safety for years. Maybe we should model their success strategy. They have a long record of airline security.

What can we do?  Not long ago, I had a discussion with my colleague about flying and the abusive TSA. My colleague told me,  “Then don’t fly.”  I did stop flying, three years ago. We can all stop flying. We can protest by refusing to give the industry our money. If everyone stopped flying, economically the industry would be forced to respond. At some point, and I don’t know when that is, Americans will need to make the choice to stop being passive.

It won’t be long before this idea of safety will be applied to our streets and roads. You know, cars can be a terrorist threat.  Soon we will be told, “Pull over please, your car has been randomly selected. Get out of your car, put your hands up and spread your legs.” Mobile scanning machines have already been developed. There’s a lot of money to be made. Maybe Michael Chertoff can help. At least we can be assured that we would be safer.

There are many poignant words communicated by Benjamin Franklin, which convey truth. My favorite is applicable to our current circumstances: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

My vote is for liberty.

Kim Alexander is Associate Professor of Sociology at Lock Haven University. Email her at kalexand@lhup.edu

Policing for Profit: Outrageous Civil Forfeiture Case Begins Next Week | Peace . Gold . Liberty

November 1, 2012

Policing for Profit: Outrageous Civil Forfeiture Case Begins Next Week | Peace . Gold . Liberty.

Is Dancing with the Stars on Tonight?

November 1, 2012

Pennsylvania is one of only eight states that count write-in votes for the Presidential election. I plan to write-in Dr. Ron Paul’s name.

As a nation, we need better evidence that government intervention works, rather than being told, “It could have been worse.” The central issue of this election cycle is how to improve the U.S. economy. Keynesianism, which focuses on spending and intervention, is the federal government’s current answer to our economic problems. Over the last two administrations, the federal government sought to revive the sinking economy through bailouts to banks, insurance companies, and auto companies; they tried stimulus plans, and  “printing” of currency by the Federal Reserve. The problem is it didn’t work.

Free-market economists argue that the impact of government economic policy led to the housing bubble and the financial collapse of 2008. They predict that thanks to continuing government intervention, we still have a looming student loan bubble, and worse yet, an approaching global economic crisis.

The government’s interventionist solution is accomplished mostly through the central bank known as the Federal Reserve. In an attempt to influence investment and spending, the Federal Reserve announced last month that it would hold down interest rates through 2015. Although the big banks are thrilled, this is bad news for seniors and others who saved their earnings. As a consequence, with interest rates held down near zero, seniors will earn almost nothing on their life savings. They trusted the system to do what it promised.  Seniors thought they were doing the right thing by saving and sacrificing in order to have security later in life. These people were suckered by the system.  Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, said that he was sorry about that, but someone has to make sacrifices.

Everyone should pay attention to what the Federal Reserve is doing to us. Like an addict who is addicted to drugs and only wants more, the Federal Reserve’s “fix” for a sagging economy is to print more money. The Fed calls this quantitative easing, better known as QE1, QE2, and most recently, QE3 (also dubbed QE Eternity since there is no date set for the endless spending).  In an effort to stimulate the economy, this quantitative easing strategy by the Fed means money is created out of thin air and pumped into the financial system. The recent QE3 solution is to purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month to stimulate growth. This currency debasement “fix” will result in inflation, which translates into a tax for middle class workers. For the average American, it becomes increasingly difficult to pay the monthly bills.

Put another way, the $100 I paid for groceries this time last year, will now cost me $110 due to inflation.  Food prices continue to creep upwards, while the Fed is confident that it will take awhile before Americans catch on to what it means to print money.   At the same time, the big banks are very happy about this last round of QE for it will help widen their profit margins. Our money is being manipulated to the benefit of the big banks at the expense of the rest of us. Keynesians applaud this (see Nobel Prize in Economics winner Paul Krugman).

Continuing to fund our growing welfare-warfare state is unsustainable. Most people don’t want to hear that; the problems in this country are just “too big to think about.” Good thing, because the government counts on our apathy and interest in entertainment, rather than an interest in the dealings of the Federal Reserve. What most people don’t think about is how the growing debt will profoundly impact the lives of our children and future generations.  I don’t think they will look back and say we were good stewards.  Is Dancing with the Stars on tonight? I love that show.

The federal government, through its continual collaboration with the Federal Reserve, is able to operate with little accountability or oversight. This is good for bankers and the ultra wealthy. The New York Times reports this week, “Goldman’s revenue more than doubled, to $8.35 billion, from $3.59 billion in the year-ago period.” One of President Obama’s top financial supporters in the 2008 election was Goldman Sachs. It pays to be able to influence decision makers in Washington.

The Washington Post reports in 2009, “For the full year, Goldman made a profit of $13.4 billion compared with $2.32 billion in 2008.”  Wow, those are astounding profits that you don’t get anywhere else. In 2012 election cycle, Romney’s top campaign contributor is Goldman Sachs. Small world.

What about soaking the rich? Can’t they pay “more of their fair share” to help the economy? This makes for great rhetoric on the campaign trail, but doesn’t translate into sound economic policy.  I concur with my colleague, wealthy Americans do work the tax laws to their advantage, and it needs to be fixed. However, this is small potatoes, we need the big one tackled, the Federal Reserve.

Raising taxes (as my colleague would like to do) is not the answer, particularly in a bad economy.  If we did allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making over $250,000, thus having “everyone pay their fair share,” it would fund the government for only eight days!  The tax increase also would be a huge hit to our jobs creators, the small business owners who file individually. This doesn’t make sense, given the current economy. We need to put reigns on the big potato, the Federal Reserve.

Austrian free-market economists provide sound explanations and solutions to our current economic problems. They recommend the Federal Reserve stop manipulating the market through devaluation of the currency by printing money and artificially lowering interest rates. Austrian economists advise the government to stop bailing out large corporations and banks. Let the free market encourage production and savings; this will lead to prosperity. You see Greg, the problem with government interference is that government does not receive the same signals for investment and growth that the private sector recognizes.  Government bailouts encourage big banks to take dangerous risks, collect the profits, and socialize (via the tax payer) the losses. This is not a free market system. This is not capitalism.

In the 2008 book, End the Fed,Dr. Ron Paul summed it up best, when he wrote,  “Among all the arguments that can be used to reject the Federal Reserve, the moral argument alone should suffice. It’s cheating. It’s a tax. It’s counterfeiting. It benefits the few at the expense of the many. It breaks the rule of contracts. It causes suffering and punishes the innocent. It enables world wars and vast payoffs to the powerful. That should be enough for all Americans to call for an end to its [ninety-nine-year] old failed scheme.” So be it.

In order to improve the economy and our future, we would need to audit the Federal Reserve, cut entitlement spending, and decrease the funding to our military industrial complex. I don’t see President Obama or Governor Romney doing any of these things.

Kim Alexander is Associate Professor of Sociology at Lock Haven University. Email her at Kalexand@lhup.edu.

“End the Fed” by Dr. Ron Paul will be available at Stevenson Library on the LHU campus.

Learning to Create a Blog

September 13, 2012

I’m not sure what to do first.

Purpose

September 8, 2012

The purpose of this website is to encourage the study of liberty.

Hello world!

September 8, 2012

Welcome to WordPress.com! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!