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Friday, January 28, 2011

Why They Torture (video)

Last Saturday the weekly demonstrations for and against the wars in West Chester, PA were joined by some special visitors. One was an activist I only know as Barbara advocating the closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba. This is a US military facility that has been the subject of much controversy. Terror suspects are kept there and many are tortured.

The other visitor was local conservative talk show host, and advocate of torture, Dom Giordano. He spent most of his time with the pro war demonstrators though he did come across the street to talk to us peaceful people a couple of times. The video below records two of his interviews. He engages Barbara in a lively debate on the subject of torture and Guantanamo. She handles Giordano's arguments extremely well:

In all of the debate about torture the real reasons for it are sometimes missed. Please read the explanation this author gave for it. The article below was originally published at on April 30, 2008:

Why They Torture

There's been much debate for the last several years about the US government and it's allies use of torture. The articles are too numerous to mention and there's been at least one movie, Rendition.

The arguments pro torture generally revolve around gathering intelligence. I'd like to suggest that this is largely false. Extracting information from people is just the excuse used to cover the real reasons for torturing. There are basically two.

The first is to break enemy leaders and potential leaders. Leave them in such a broken state of mind that they can't effectively organize opposition to the US government. This is bad enough, but it begs the question of who's being tortured? Going after potential leaders inevitably means that many innocents will be hauled in.

The second reason for torturing is intimidation. Trying to strike fear in those who would oppose the US government. Submit or this could happen to you.

History will judge the US as harshly as it has the Roman Empire, which we have equaled if not surpassed. For all the Roman's technical and scientific achievements they are most remembered for their brutality. Sadly, so it will be for the US. This is what people will see of us one thousand years from now. This is the monster that the quest for empire has turned the republic into.

In advocating the adoption of the Declaration of independence, Richard Henry Lee said, "Why then, sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American republic. Let her arise, not to devastate and to conquer, but to reestablish the reign of peace and of law." How far we have strayed from the ideals of the Founders.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Martin Luther King and the Empowerment of the War Machine: A Libertarian’s View

On Martin Luther King Day I had the pleasure of joining the "Make War No More" protest at the defense contractor Lockheed Martin's property in King of Prussia, PA. It is the largest arms manufacturer in the world which is the reason it has been the object of these protests for so many years. The people that were arrested in an act of civil disobedience there have earned our respect. See video:

Unfortunately, Lockheed Martin’s partnership with evil goes much deeper than just making weapons for the empire. As William Hartung points out in "Big 'Corporate' Brother: Is Lockheed Martin Shadowing You?", "It's involved in surveillance and information processing for the CIA, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Pentagon, the Census Bureau, and the Postal Service." Their involvement in both is more proof that the empire abroad and the police state at home are flip sides of the same coin. On this Dr. King agreed, he was an advocate of tying the civil rights and anti war movements together.

Digging deeper, though, we see that there are other connections between domestic and foreign tyranny that many on the left don’t see. Dr. King was a Marxist, as he himself labeled his economic views. This makes the Communist Manifesto as good a place as any to start this analysis. The four of the ten planks in that book that have been implemented in the United States are most relevant to this discussion:

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. - Not only does this furnish money for the government’s use (such as paying for war), it provides them with one of its worse organs of plunder and domestic repression, the IRS.

5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly. - The Federal Reserve System, the United States’ central bank, is the greatest enabler of war the government has. It creates the money that finances them. (For more detail on this subject see "War and Inflation: Financing the Empire")

6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State. - The corporate media are but the government’s propaganda arm. Hyping the wars and glorifying the troops at every turn. The government owns the roads, most public transportation, ports, and the airports, giving it control of vast resources.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. - Government schools are in reality also indoctrination centers. They produce loyal citizens willing to go fight wars for the state.

When the left decries the government’s diversion of its resources from human needs to the military it is on to something. War does impoverish us. What the left needs to understand is that a government with the resources to build schools also has the resources to build drones, a government with the resources to build roads also has the resources to build jet fighters, and a government with the power to tax and create money has the resources to pay for the weapons mentioned above and to wage war.

And wage war it will, for as Randolph Bourne wrote "War Is the Health of the State". Giving the state resources only feeds the war machine. Welfare at home and warfare abroad are also just flip sides of the same coin. If the left really wants to see Dr. King’s dream of peace come true they must face the reality that they can not give the government the tools it needs to wage war and expect it not to do so. It’s not enough to advocate that they not buy weapons. We must take away the tools they use to acquire them. This means that we must end the Federal Reserve System, the income tax, the federal government’s social spending, its regulatory role, and its police powers. Peace will only come when the government is powerless to commit evil acts both at home and abroad.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Feds charge icon with "jury tampering" (video)

The federal government is charging FIJA activist Julian Heicklen with jury tampering. Professor Heicklen is a long time activist and leader in educating juries. He has been harassed and arrested many times for handing out FIJA literature at federal courthouses, especially the one at 500 Pearl Street in New York City where he has to appear for a hearing on January 24, 2011. The video uses a call this author made to a radio talk show in addition to much footage of Julian Heicklen in action:

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Empire Versus the Two Julians, Assange and Heicklen, and the Anti War Activists

The US government really wants Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. They’re mad at him for releasing video of the military’s murder of civilians in Iraq and more recently a list of sensitive diplomatic cables too long to get into here. A grand jury has been empaneled in Alexandria, VA  to consider criminal charges against Assange. He may never be extradited to the US for trial, but what if he is?

He has many supporters here in the peace community. This includes the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA ) activists  who started a campaign, Julian Assange's Fully Informed Jury, at the website The Point. The campaign’s objective is "If Julian Assange is extradited to the United States, I will do my best to fully inform his jury." Inform them of what you may ask? Of the right of the jury to nullify the law regardless of the facts of a case. From FIJA’s website:
The FIJA mission is to educate Americans regarding their full powers as jurors, including their ability to rely on personal conscience, to judge the merit of the law and its application, and to nullify bad law, when necessary for justice, by finding for the defendant.
The US government is also after a number of anti war activists. The FBI raided their houses and an office in Minneapolis, Chicago, Michigan, and North Carolina last September after sending in an agent to infiltrate and spy on them. Twenty-three people have been issued subpoenas. The first are scheduled to appear before grand juries on January 25, 2011. As this author pointed out in "Jury Nullification May Be The Only Salvation For The Antiwar Activists":
Given that we live in an age when it has been said that "A good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich." It is sadly very likely that indictments will follow. If this is the case jury nullification may be these activists only salvation.
The prospect of not being able to convict opponents of its tyranny must be terrifying to the government. There is no better way to stop FIJA activists from educating jurors and, therefore, keeping dissidents free than to start charging them with felonies for their activism.  This may be why they are now charging FIJA activist Julian Heicklen with jury tampering. Professor Heicklen is a long time activist and leader in educating juries. He has been harassed and arrested many times for handing out FIJA literature at federal courthouses, especially the one at 500 Pearl Street in New York City where he has to appear for a hearing on January 24, 2011.

According to Professor Heicklen’s website the summons he received was short on details as to when and where he committed the alleged tampering:
…the summons does not include any deposition from the accuser, so that I do not know the specific incident that is involved. The summons states that there is only one charge, but gives no particulars, including a date, time, location of the incident, names & dates of jurors tampered, & how tampered.
Having been to several of these FIJA outreach events with Julian Heicklen myself I’m quite suspicious of these charges. Not once have I seen him tell a juror how to vote on a case. He merely hands out fliers to all passersby. His prosecution can be seen as nothing more than an attempt to squash our efforts to educate juries on how they can check tyranny with jury nullification. No doubt the government will be most upset if they try Assange or the anti war activists only to have them set free by a jury bent on justice. To make sure that happens we have to make sure that first Julian Heicklen is found not guilty. Whatever your political views, show your support for him. Come to his hearing on the 24th if you can. Together we can defeat this tyranny.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Stripping of Freedom: A Careful Scan of TSA Security Procedures (video)

On January 6, 2011 the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) hosted a conference on the Transportation Security Administration's Advanced Imaging Technology scanners and their abusive pat-down searches. Their website billed it as:
This one-day public conference will be devoted to an assessment of the TSA airport security procedures and recommendations for reform. Experts in law, aviation security, and health safety, advocates for flyers rights, privacy protection, and religious freedom, as well as lawmakers and policy advisors will participate in the event. The event will also include a rich media display, with images from airport protests, YouTube videos, and campaign materials.
Many great panelists participated including Jim Babb of We Won't

Among the other speakers were renown analyst Edward Luttwak who pointed out that the TSA is getting it all wrong by searching every passenger attempting to board a plane. They are ignoring the recommendations of the International Air Transport Association as outlined in Vision for Intelligent Aviation Security.

At the end of the conference I asked the panel that included Jim Harper of the Cato Institute and New York city councilman David Greenfield about allowing selected passengers to carry guns on planes as a way to enhance security. It came as no surprise that Councilman Greenfield opposed the idea. What was surprising was Jim Harper objecting to it! An odd position for a representative of an allegedly libertarian think tank to take.

On a humorous note, when I asked the above question I happened to be standing next to Ralph Nader who thought it was quite funny. He later characterized it as "impertinent".  Obviously there are many who just don’t get what guns and armed citizens are really about. To the best of my knowledge there are no studies that show that disarmed passengers are safer than armed ones. Matter of fact, we do know that most, if not all, successful terrorist incidents have had unarmed passengers as their victims.