Thursday, October 25, 2012

I've got your disposition matrix right here

To what should be no one's surprise, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama debated nothing of importance and agreed that drone-bombing women and children is A-OK. While the media focused on irrelevant nonsense like Big Bird, binders, and bayonets, our economy is careening toward a fiscal cliff, our civil liberties are dying, and we're creating more terrorists by the day with our incessant drone attacks on weddings, funerals, and those who rush to the aid of others who have already been bombed.

With Romney already having said he supported indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial under the NDAA bill Obama signed into law, we already knew we were screwed no matter who wins the election. Now that we know he digs drones and would escalate military spending, we can be assured that neither our foreign policy nor our spending crisis will be fixed under Romney. Truly, it does not matter who wins this election. On the issues that actually matter, the issues that will determine the future of this nation and the principles it was built on, Romney and Obama are in full agreement -- much to the dismay of lovers of peace, liberty, and fiscal responsibility everywhere.

These are not petty concerns. Not only are drones expanding their reach into U.S. airspace to spy on American citizens, but a nine-month study conducted by New York University and Stanford speaks to the unimaginable terror American drone attacks have unleashed in Pakistan. It notes the high numbers of civilian deaths, including children, and how double-tap strikes -- in which drones return to bomb sites to target any potential rescuers -- have made people reluctant to come to the aid of others. And it should go without saying, but the report also concludes that the relentless attacks are turning more and more people against the United States. It's as if we learned nothing from 9/11 and blowback.

And now it gets even worse. According to a blistering article from Glenn Greenwald -- a hero of investigative journalism if there ever was one -- the Obama administration is putting plans in place to make the War on Terror essentially a permanent fixture, complete with more kill lists and an enormous surveillance program aimed not just at the alleged bad guys, but at all of us. As Greenwald says:
What has been created here -- permanently institutionalized -- is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a "matrix" that determines the "disposition" of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be "disposed" of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The situation has already become so absurd, Greenwald notes, that where the Clinton administration once deliberated long and hard about its missile attack on what it believed to be Osama bin Laden's location, now the Obama administration barely bats an eye about killing people on a daily basis. This is a strategy obviously doomed to failure. As one government official notes in regard to this new plan, you can never kill everyone who wants to do you harm. Yet as the NYU/Stanford report observes, we're creating even more terrorists with every new bomb we drop. It's insanity. As Greenwald put it:
"[T]he US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror."
More from Greenwald:
[C]continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. … Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who "want to harm us". That's the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: "No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet … what we have had for years is a system of government that -- without hyperbole -- is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a "disposition matrix" to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality.
As for being able to detain people indefinitely without charge:
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations -- something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life -- and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic "war on terror" proponents in both political parties have become.
Anyone who's paying attention knows how true that statement is. The Democrats and Republicans are in bed together on this issue. They, and their accomplices in the mainstream press, want to keep Americans distracted with petty partisan bickering over irrelevant topics while the real damage to our nation goes virtually unchecked.

That's why it was such a blast of fresh air to get a third-party presidential debate this election cycle. With Larry King as moderator, four candidates -- Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party -- candidly addressed topics that Romney and Obama never would have touched, at the behest of their corporate masters. These are candidates who aren't bought and paid for and so can speak from the heart about matters the major parties and the press won't touch -- like NDAA. Although they differed on other issues, all four decried the assault on our Constitutional liberties from the likes of NDAA and the Patriot Act.

Gary Johnson, who called Ron Paul his hero, had the best line of the night in his closing statement:
Wasting your vote is voting for somebody that you don't believe in. That's wasting your vote. I'm asking everybody here, I'm asking everybody watching this nationwide to waste your vote on me. Vote for me, Gary Johnson, and you know what happens? I'm the next president of the United States, and I guarantee you, nobody will regret that. You'll find somebody with no quit; you'll find somebody who will wake up every single day and take on the debates and the discussions that need to be happening in this country and aren't happening today because of a lack of leadership.
In every election cycle in my voting lifetime, I've heard some variation on this argument: "This election is too important to throw your vote away on a third-party candidate. They have no chance of winning. Besides, a vote for that candidate is a vote for the guy I don't like."

Well, you know what? I'm going to get the chance to vote for president only a handful of times in my life, and I'm not about to vote for someone whose principles I disagree with, just so I can block some other candidate from claiming office. I don't vote for parties. I don't vote for the lesser of two evils. I vote for people and ideas. I vote for peace and liberty, and whoever espouses those views the best earns my vote. If Stalin and Hitler were the front-runners in a race for office, would you hold your nose and vote for one of them just because one of them was going to win anyway? Or would you give your vote to an outlier whose views you actually admired, even if you knew he wasn't going to win?

Naturally, the "can't win" argument is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course third parties can't win, if you don't vote for them. If everyone who ever said "they can't win" would actually vote third party, they just might win.

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Voting the Democrats out and expecting the Republicans to fix everything, and vice versa, has been shown time and again not to work. So why do people keep doing it?

Vote your conscience for a change.

"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost." -- John Quincy Adams

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