Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight

Believe it or not, Barack Obama actually had the audacity to say the following, without a trace of irony:

Is he coming out against his own drone wars, then? Oh, goodness, no. He was speaking in support of U.S.-supported Israel and its terror campaign against Gaza, which, as of Nov. 19, had killed at least 95 Palestinians and wounded 700 others, including 200 innocent children, before a cease-fire was declared.

Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of members of the al-Dallu family
during their funeral procession in Gaza City on November 19, 2012.
An Israeli missile struck a three-story building in Gaza City on November 18,
killing several members of the al-Dallu family -- five of them children --
and two of their neighbors, medics said.
(AFP Photo/Mahmud Hamas)

A Palestinian man carries the dead body of a child from the al-Dallu family
out from the rubble after an Israeli missile struck a family home killing at least seven members
of the same family in Gaza City on November 18, 2012.
(AFP Photo/Mahmud Hamas)

A Palestinian man cries next to the dead bodies of four children
in the morgue of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Jihad Misharawi, a BBC Arabic journalist who lives in Gaza,
carries the dead body of his 11-month old son, Omar,
through al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

"The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages," says Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

And just what is this terrible threat that Gaza poses to Israel? Professor, author, and activist Noam Chomsky recently visited Gaza and had this to say:
It's kind of amazing and inspiring to see people managing somehow to survive in—as essentially caged animals and subject to constant, random, sadistic punishment only to humiliate them, no pretext. They're—Israel and the United States keep them alive, basically. They don't want them to starve to death. But the life is set up so that you can't have a dignified, decent life. In fact, one of the words you hear most often is "dignity." They would like to have dignified lives. And the standard Israeli position is they shouldn't raise their heads.
[ ... ]

It's an open-air prison. As soon as you—you know, we’ve all been in jail for civil disobedience and so on. The overwhelming feeling everyone gets is somebody else is in total control of you. There’s an arbitrary authority who can control anything you do. Stand up, sit down, you know, find something to eat, go to the bathroom—whatever it may be, they all determine it; you can't do anything. Now that's basically what it's like living there. And, you know, there's—people find ways to adapt, but it's just a constant—it's constant subjugation to an external force, which has no purpose except to humiliate you.

So when a subjugated people try to fight back, they get the full force of the Israeli military -- backed and armed by the United States -- to terrorize them into submission.

It's safe to say there are bad people on both sides of this conflict, but the narrative in the Western media remains the same every time: Israel is defending itself against terrorism. And if you try to counter that argument -- if you point out that the Gazans are massively outnumbered and outgunned, or that the history of modern Israel is one of forcing Palestinians off their own lands, frequently by force, and often in violation of international law, you're labeled an anti-Semite. As Ron Paul said in his farewell speech, even so much as criticizing the American-Israel Political Action Committee is "political suicide" in America.

And it's a shame that we can't have an honest debate about any of this, because if we did, it would become clear that the violence in the Holy Lands is not a battle between equals, and that Israel continues to marginalize the Palestinians as the decades go on.

Reminders of the Holocaust seem to make many people reluctant to ever criticize Israel's actions. And in America, Christians support the Israeli state because they see its existence as a sign of the end times, heralding the return of Jesus and the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Couple that with the fact that Israel is the only stable democracy in the Middle East, and that all Muslims have been widely stereotyped as fanatical terrorists, and it's safe to say the Western narrative on Israel isn't going to change anytime soon.

Our leaders' own words reveal the hostility with which they regard the Gazans. From JustForeignPolicy, noting the language used in the White House's response to the conflict:
So the President "condemns" the attack on civilians in Tel Aviv and thinks that injuring Israeli civilians is "outrageous", but only "expressed regret" at the killing of Palestinian civilians and "urged" Netanyahu not to kill too many of them. This is tantamount to saying that harming Israeli civilians is worse than killing Palestinian civilians, which is especially disgusting considering this is a supposed Nobel Peace laureate making these statements.

All violence against civilians ought to be condemned. The fact that the leaders of the United States find themselves incapable of condemning the killing of Palestinian civilians reveals an unjust bias in favor of one group of civilians over another. That is simply unacceptable.

Just because a ceasefire has been called doesn't mean this problem is going to go away. In order for there to be a long-lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the United States must recognize the equal worth of the Israeli and Palestinian people, and must force the Israeli leadership to recognize this same equality as well. Otherwise, there is little hope for a permanent peace.
A much more noble man than Barack Obama to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Albert Schweitzer, understood that much of the harm we inflict on other life comes from our ability to belittle other lives, regarding them as less than equal -- indeed, sometimes even less than human. He once said of Western imperialism:
Our culture divides people into two classes: civilized men, a title bestowed on the persons who do the classifying; and others, who have only the human form, who may perish or go to the dogs for all the '"civilized men" care. Oh, this "noble" culture of ours! It speaks so piously of human dignity and human rights and then disregards this dignity and these rights of countless millions and treads them underfoot ...
A crucial tenet of Schweitzer's "Reverence for Life" philosophy was that once we understand that "
I am life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live," we will begin to feel "a compulsion to give to every will to live the same reverence for life that he gives to his own." Schweitzer continues:
Standing, as all living beings are, before this dilemma of the will to live, a person is constantly forced to preserve his own life and life in general only at the cost of other life. If he has been touched by the ethic of reverence for life, he injures and destroys life only under a necessity he cannot avoid, and never from thoughtlessness.
This is, in essence, the Golden Rule, and it's little wonder why it shows up in nearly every human religion. But Schweitzer believed we couldn't arrive at this point until we shifted our worldview in regard to the world around us:
Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.
And it was in this context that Schweitzer challenged us all to "think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." If we saw the terror animals endured in slaughterhouses, vegetarianism would skyrocket. Likewise, if we saw the pain and misery our War on Terror has visited upon the world, perhaps public sentiment would turn against it.

Who can forget this iconic image?

Kim Phuc, a 9-year-old girl, fled naked from her village after it was firebombed by the South Vietnamese in 1972. The napalm was burning through her skin as she ran screaming. That one image, perhaps more than any other, turned public opinion irrevocably against the Vietnam War.

Fast-forward 40 years, and we have a Palestinian father kissing his dead baby girl goodbye.

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.

This latest round of violence began when Israel decided to assassinate the military commander of Hamas. Of course, the international community has condemned extrajudicial assassinations, but as Glenn Greenwald points out, it's not as if the United States, the nation Ronald Reagan once saw as a "Shining City on a Hill," can sit in judgment anymore.
US policy always lies at the heart of these episodes, because Israeli aggression is possible only due to the unstinting financial, military and diplomatic support of the US. Needless to say, the Obama administration wasted no time expressing its "full-throttled support" for the Israeli attacks. And one can't help but notice the timing of this attack: launched just days after Obama's re-election victory, demanding an answer to the question of whether Obama was told in advance of these attacks and gave his approval.

Ultimately, though, Obama had no choice but to support these attacks, which were designed, in part, to extra-judicially assassinate Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari as he was driving in his car (the IDF then proudly posted the video of its hit on YouTube). How could Obama possibly have done anything else?

Extra-judicial assassination - accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children - is a staple of the Obama presidency. That lawless tactic is one of the US president's favorite instruments for projecting force and killing whomever he decides should have their lives ended: all in total secrecy and with no due process or oversight. There is now a virtually complete convergence between US and Israeli aggression, making US criticism of Israel impossible not only for all the usual domestic political reasons, but also out of pure self-interest: for Obama to condemn Israel's rogue behavior would be to condemn himself.

It is vital to recognize that this is a new development. The position of the US government on extra-judicial assassinations long had been consistent with the consensus view of the international community: that it is a savage and lawless weapon to be condemned regardless of claims that it is directed at "terrorists".

[ ... ]

In essence, what we find, yet again, is that the governments of the United States and Israel arrogate unto themselves the right to execute anyone they want, anywhere in the world, without any limitations, regardless of how many innocent civilians they kill in the process. "Rogue nation" is a term that is often casually tossed around in the discourse of foreign relations. Here, it is quite appropriate, and -- when it comes to extra-judicial assassinations -- clearly applies to the two countries who apply the term most frequently to others.
In short, we have abandoned the rule of law in favor of letting our president bomb whatever country he wants, without anything even remotely resembling a declaration of war. We let him pick names off a "kill list" to decide who dies at his hand. We let him assassinate American citizens without a shred of due process. All this after he signed into law the authorization of indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial.

These are not the actions of a democratic, law-abiding nation. These are the actions of terrorists.

Look at those pictures. Those are innocent children, killed not by an Israeli military backed by the United States, but directly by our Nobel Peace Prize-winning commander-in-chief, Barack Obama, with his robotic death machines that roam the skies every single day over Pakistan.

The silence from the political left is deafening. If this had been Bush, there would be riots in the streets. Liberals would be howling from the rooftops. As Kevin Drum put it in Mother Jones, "Republicans are in favor of anything that kills more bad guys, regardless of collateral damage, and Democrats are unwilling to make trouble for a president of their own party." Chris Hedges is even more blunt, pulling no punches in a Truthdig article:
The presidential election exposed the liberal class as a corpse. It fights for nothing. It stands for nothing. It is a useless appendage to the corporate state. It exists not to make possible incremental or piecemeal reform, as it originally did in a functional capitalist democracy; instead it has devolved into an instrument of personal vanity, burnishing the hollow morality of its adherents. Liberals, by voting for Barack Obama, betrayed the core values they use to define themselves—the rule of law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions, the preservation of social welfare programs, environmental accords, financial regulation, a defiance of unjust war and torture, and the abolition of drone wars. The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become.   
[ ... ] 
Liberals have assured us that after the election they will build a movement to hold the president accountable—although how or when or what this movement will look like they cannot say. They didn’t hold him accountable during his first term. They won’t during his second. They have played their appointed roles in the bankrupt political theater that passes for electoral politics. They have wrung their hands, sung like a Greek chorus about the evils of the perfidious opponent, assured us that there is no other viable option, and now they will exit the stage. They will carp and whine in the wings until they are trotted out again to assume their role in the next political propaganda campaign of disempowerment and fear. They will, in the meantime, become the butt of ridicule and derision by the very politicians they supported.  
The ineffectiveness of the liberal class, as I saw in the former Yugoslavia and as was true in Weimar Germany, perpetuates a dangerous political paralysis. The longer the paralysis continues, the longer systems of power are unable to address the suffering and grievances of the masses, the more the formal mechanisms of power are reviled. The liberal establishment’s inability to defy corporate power, to stand up for its supposed liberal beliefs, means its inevitable disappearance, along with the disappearance of traditional liberal values. This, as history has amply pointed out, is the road to despotism. And we are further down that road than many care to admit.  
Indeed, over and over this election cycle, I heard Obama supporters saying they knew their candidate wasn't "perfect," but they had to vote for him because the alternative would have been so much worse.

Would it?

I have a baby daughter. I envision her when I see these images. I can imagine the terror these innocent children felt as their little bodies were being ripped apart by American bombs. I can feel the anguish of the parents who watched their precious babies die.

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.

There is no rationalizing this. There is no excusing this.

Except that Obama's apologists try to do just that. When asked how the Obama regime justified the assassination of a 16-year-old American citizen, Robert Gibbs said, "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they're truly concerned about the well-being of their children."

So it's OK to murder a 16-year-old child -- an American citizen, no less -- if his dad is considered a bad guy. This is the mentality of the administration in power.

The most Obama himself has been able to bring himself to do during his time in office is to make jokes about drone attacks.


Here's what was at the other end of one your drone missiles, Obama:

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, born in Denver, was described as a "'typical teenage high school student' who listened to rap and hip hop, read Harry Potter and Twilight books and watched Sponge Bob Square Pants and The Simpsons on TV." As a friend said, "He was the same as us. He liked swimming, playing computer games, watching movies ... you know, normal stuff."

He was 16 years old.

And now he's dead.

If you don't understand why this is a big deal, let me spell it out. Americans are supposed to have access to due process of law. It's enshrined in the Constitution, the governing document our elected leaders are supposed to abide by. As an American citizen, you have the right to a fair and speedy trial, you have the right to know the charges brought against you, you have the right to legal counsel, and your life, liberty, or property will not be deprived before you've had a chance to exercise those rights. That's why the NDAA and its provision for indefinite detention of American citizens is such a travesty -- as 2012 Justice Party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson put it, NDAA is the most anti-American act in the country's history. And now that it's coming up for its annual renewal, this is the reason that, as of this writing, Sen. Rand Paul is demanding the inclusion of language that guarantees any detainee's constitutional rights.

Long story short: The assassination of an American citizen without due process rapes the very foundations this nation was founded on -- and if the Obama administration can unilaterally decide that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki can be assassinated, it can unilaterally decide to murder any American citizen, at any time, for any reason whatsoever.

This is tyranny. Brutal, unaccountable, murderous tyranny.

Yes, murder. There's no other word for it. And to his credit, that's exactly what journalist Jeremy Scahill calls one Obama drone attack that killed scores of women and children in Yemen. (Starts at about 3:47, but the whole clip is worth watching.)

In that bombing raid, 14 women and 21 children were slaughtered. The original story that leaked out said that Yemen had conducted the strike, but journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye discovered that the attack had come from American weapons. A Wikileaks document later proved his findings to be true and also revealed that Gen. David Petraeus, who at the time headed the United States Central Command, conspired with the Yemenis to cover up America's role in the bombing. Only in an upside-down world like ours would a military leader step down over an adulterous affair while his role in covering up American war crimes goes unnoticed.

A few months later, Shaye was abducted, beaten, held in solitary for a month, given no access to a lawyer, and untruthfully told that his family had abandoned him (in reality, his family was never told where he was). He was eventually sentenced to prison for five years on trumped-up charges. Under domestic political pressure, Yemen's president prepared a pardon, but then he got a call from Obama, who expressed "concerns" over Shaye's release. The pardon was rescinded, and Shaye remains in prison -- at Obama's demand, for doing no more than exposing the truth.

Investigative reporters believe that Obama's drones have killed at least 2,000 people in Pakistan alone, and perhaps more than 3,000 in all the nations we've attacked. Of that number, more than 160 have been Pakistani children. And only about 2% of the dead are believed to have been senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. As Rep. Dennis Kucinich suggests, the very fact that we've killed 3,000 people shows that these strikes are not surgical and targeted, as the administration claims, nor are they used only to stave off imminent threats to the United States.

Do you think this little girl was the target of a "surgical" strike against a militant?

She was burned and disfigured in a 2009 drone strike on Pakistan. Just 1 year old at the time, she was found discarded in a trash can along with two other girls, who both died. This girl survived, but she'll carry the scars of an attack ordered by a Nobel Peace Prize winner for the rest of her life.

In an interview with Alternet, Pakistaini political leader Imran Khan offers an insider's view on what effect the drone wars are really having:
The difference between Khan's awareness and perspective of U.S. drone policy and that of major U.S. politicians, including the two U.S. presidential candidates, is stunning to stay the least.

He has an extensive awareness of the tribal areas' culture, code of honor and respect, and, yes, revenge. He spoke of an absolute necessity in Pakistani tribal culture to honor your family members killed by drones and see that justice is served. 

Mr. Khan followed that point by posing a question: Why are there more militants than ever since the U.S. began the drone campaign? He explains that drone strikes have only fueled animosity. That said, he has a practical awareness of the limited capabilities of the mostly illiterate, ill-trained, poverty-stricken Taliban militants in the tribal areas — that while they can inflict fear into local communities, they have little chance of threatening U.S. security. 

The number of innocent people being killed and maimed by drone strikes grows each year, and Khan and his significant following in the tribal areas of Pakistan are very aware of this. He confirms that drone attacks are often based on bribes and bounties to local tribesmen. So while the drone may be "accurate," the intel is often deeply flawed. We see the results in those hundreds of innocent victims.
In short, we're attacking people who could never pose an immediate credible threat to the United States, but we are increasing anti-American hatred with every bomb we drop on a woman or a child. To make it even worse, we then drop bombs on those who run in to rescue the injured, and for those who die at our hands, we bomb their funerals. Says Greenwald of these despicable acts:
In the hierarchy of war crimes, deliberately targeting rescuers and funerals -- so that aid workers are petrified to treat the wounded and family members are intimidated out of mourning their loved ones -- ranks rather high, to put that mildly. Indeed, the US itself has long maintained that such "secondary strikes" are a prime hallmark of some of the world's most despised terrorist groups.
We are terrorists committing war crimes, by our own admission. And by trying to (ostensibly) wipe out a terrorist threat, we are creating more terrorists.

We'd just better hope that these grieving, terrorized Pakistanis (or residents of any other nation we've attacked) never try to pool their resources for a trip to the States, where they decide to detonate a homemade bomb in some public place in an act of revenge. Worst of all, the only thing that would accomplish is to have the U.S. government double down on its attacks and clamp down even further on American civil liberties. Truly, there is no end to this madness.

And for those who continue to excuse this away, I give you this, in its entirety, from blogger Chris Floyd:
To all those now hailing the re-election of Barack Obama as a triumph of decent, humane, liberal values over the oozing-postule perfidy of the Republicans, a simple question:

Is this child dead enough for you?

This little boy was named Naeemullah. He was in his house -- maybe playing, maybe sleeping, maybe having a meal -- when an American drone missile was fired into the residential area where he lived and blew up the house next door.

As we all know, these drone missiles are, like the president who wields them, super-smart, a triumph of technology and technocratic expertise. We know, for the president and his aides have repeatedly told us, that these weapons -- launched only after careful consultation of the just-war strictures of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas -- strike nothing but their intended targets and kill no one but "bad guys." Indeed, the president's top aides have testified under oath that not a single innocent person has been among the thousands of Pakistani civilians -- that is, civilians of a sovereign nation that is not at war with the United States -- who have been killed by the drone missile campaign of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Yet somehow, by some miracle, the missile that roared into the residential area where Naeemullah lived did not confine itself neatly to the house it struck. Somehow, inexplicably, the hunk of metal and wire and computer processors failed -- in this one instance -- to look into the souls of all the people in the village and ascertain, by magic, which ones were "bad guys" and then kill only them. Somehow -- perhaps the missile had been infected with Romney cooties? -- this supercharged hunk of high explosives simply, well, exploded with tremendous destructive power when it struck the residential area, blowing the neighborhood to smithereens.

As Wired reports, shrapnel and debris went flying through the walls of Naeemullah's house and ripped through his small body. When the attack was over -- when the buzzing drone sent with Augustinian wisdom by the Peace Laureate was no longer lurking over the village, shadowing the lives of every defenseless inhabitant with the terrorist threat of imminent death, Naeemullah was taken to the hospital in a nearby town.

This is where the picture of above was taken by Noor Behram, a resident of North Waziristan who has been chronicling the effects of the Peace Laureate's drone war. When the picture was taken, Naeemullah was dying. He died an hour later.

He died.

Is he dead enough for you?

Dead enough not to disturb your victory dance in any way? Dead enough not to trouble the inauguration parties yet to come? Dead enough not to diminish, even a little bit, your exultant glee at the fact that this great man, a figure of integrity, decency, honor and compassion, will be able to continue his noble leadership of the best nation in the history of the world?

Do you have children? Do they sit your house playing happily? Do they sleep sweetly scrunched up in their warm beds at night? Do they chatter and prattle like funny little birds as you eat with them at the family table? Do you love them? Do you treasure them? Do you consider them fully-fledged human beings, beloved souls of infinite worth?

How would you feel if you saw them ripped to shreds by flying shrapnel, in your own house? How would you feel as you rushed them to the hospital, praying every step of the way that another missile won't hurl down on you from the sky? Your child was innocent, you had done nothing, were simply living your life in your own house -- and someone thousands of miles away, in a country you had never seen, had no dealings with, had never harmed in any way, pushed a button and sent chunks of burning metal into your child's body. How would you feel as you watched him die, watched all your hopes and dreams for him, all the hours and days and years you would have to love him, fade away into oblivion, lost forever?

What would you think about the one who did this to your child? Would you say: "What a noble man of integrity and decency! I'm sure he is acting for the best."

Would you say: "Well, this is a bit unfortunate, but it's perfectly understandable. The Chinese government (or Iran or al Qaeda or North Korea or Russia, etc. etc.) believed there was someone next door to me who might possibly at some point in time pose some kind of threat in some unspecified way to their people or their political agenda -- or maybe it was just that my next-door neighbor behaved in a certain arbitrarily chosen way that indicated to people watching him on a computer screen thousands of miles away that he might possibly be the sort of person who might conceivably at some point in time pose some kind of unspecified threat to the Chinese (Iranians/Russians, etc.), even though they had no earthly idea who my neighbour is or what he does or believes or intends. I think the person in charge of such a program is a good, wise, decent man that any person would be proud to support. Why, I think I'll ask him to come speak at my little boy's funeral!"

Is that what you would say if shrapnel from a missile blew into your comfortable house and killed your own beloved little boy? You would not only accept, understand, forgive, shrug it off, move on -- you would actively support the person who did it, you would cheer his personal triumphs and sneer at all those who questioned his moral worthiness and good intentions? Is that really what you would do?

Well, that is what you are doing when you shrug off the murder of little Naeemullah. You are saying he is not worth as much as your child. You are saying he is not a fully-fledged human being, a beloved soul of infinite worth. You are saying that you support his death, you are happy about it, and you want to see many more like it. You are saying it doesn't matter if this child -- or a hundred like him, or a thousand like him, or, as in the Iraqi sanctions of the old liberal lion, Bill Clinton, five hundred thousand children like Naeemullah -- are killed in your name, by leaders you cheer and support. You are saying that the only thing that matters is that someone from your side is in charge of killing these children. This is the reality of "lesser evilism."


Before the election, we heard a lot of talk about this notion of the "lesser evil." From prominent dissidents and opponents of empire like Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky and Robert Parry to innumerable progressive blogs to personal conversations, one heard this basic argument: "Yes, the drone wars, the gutting of civil liberties, the White House death squads and all the rest are bad; but Romney would be worse. Therefore, with great reluctance, holding our noses and shaking our heads sadly, we must choose the lesser evil of Obama and vote accordingly."

I understand that argument, I really do. I don't agree with it, as I made plain here many times before the election. I think the argument is wrong, I think our system is so far gone that even a "lesser evil" is too evil to support in any way, that such support only perpetuates the system's unconscionable evils. But I'm not a purist, not a puritan, not a commissar or dogmatist. I understand that people of good will can come to a different conclusion, and feel that they must reluctantly choose one imperial-militarist-corporate faction over the other, in the belief that this will mean some slight mitigation of the potential evil that the other side commit if it took power. I used to think that way myself, years ago. Again, I now disagree with this, and I think that the good people who believe this have not, for whatever reason or reasons, looked with sufficient clarity at the reality of our situation, of what is actually being done, in their name, by the political faction they support.

But of course, I am not the sole arbiter of reality, nor a judge of others; people see what they see, and they act (or refrain from acting) accordingly. I understand that. But here is what I don't understand: the sense of triumph and exultation and glee on the part of so many progressives and liberals and 'dissidents' at the victory of this "lesser evil." Where did the reluctance, the nose-holding, the sad head-shaking go? Should they not be mourning the fact that evil has triumphed in America, even if, by their lights, it is a "lesser" evil?

If you really believed that Obama was a lesser evil -- 2 percent less evil, as I believe Digby once described the Democrats in 2008 -- if you really did find the drone wars and the White House death squads and Wall Street bailouts and absolution for torturers and all the rest to be shameful and criminal, how can you be happy that all of this will continue? Happy -- and continuing to scorn anyone who opposed the perpetuation of this system?

The triumph of a lesser evil is still a victory for evil. If your neighborhood is tyrannized by warring mafia factions, you might prefer that the faction which occasionally doles out a few free hams wins out over their more skinflint rivals; but would you be joyful about the fact that your neighborhood is still being tyrannized by murderous criminals? Would you not be sad, cast down, discouraged and disheartened to see the violence and murder and corruption go on? Would you not mourn the fact that your children will have to grow up in the midst of all this?

So where is the mourning for the fact that we, as a nation, have come to this: a choice between murderers, a choice between plunderers? Even if you believe that you had to participate and make the horrific choice that was being offered to us -- "Do you want the Democrat to kill these children, or do you want the Republican to kill these children?" -- shouldn't this post-election period be a time of sorrow, not vaulting triumph and giddy glee and snarky put-downs of the "losers"?

If you really are a "lesser evilist" -- if this was a genuine moral choice you reluctantly made, and not a rationalization for indulging in unexamined, primitive partisanship -- then you will know that we are ALL the losers of this election. Even if you believe it could have been worse, it is still very bad. You yourself proclaimed that Obama was evil -- just a bit "lesser" so than his opponent. (2 percent maybe.) And so the evil that you yourself saw and named and denounced will go on. Again I ask: where is the joy and glory and triumph in this? Even if you believe it was unavoidable, why celebrate it? And ask yourself, bethink yourself: what are you celebrating? This dead child, and a hundred like him? A thousand like him? Five hundred thousand like him? How far will you go? What won't you celebrate?

And so step by step, holding the hand of the "lesser evil," we descend deeper and deeper into the pit.
Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.

Decades and decades of voting for "the lesser of two evils" have brought us to this point. If you supported Obama, the blood is on your hands. If you supported Romney, who vowed to continue the drone strikes, you're no better. And that goes for all 118 million of you who voted for one or the other. Congratulations.

Here's what Chris Hedges thinks of you, and of the nation you've allowed us to become:
I am not sure when I severed myself irrevocably from the myth of America. It began when I was a seminarian, living for more than two years in Boston’s inner city on a street that had more homicides than any other in the city. I had to confront in the public housing projects the cruelty of white supremacy, the myriad institutional mechanisms that kept poor people of color trapped, broken and impoverished, the tragic squandering of young lives and the fatuous liberals who spoke in lofty language about empowering people they never met. The ties unraveled further during the five years I spent as a war correspondent in El Salvador and Nicaragua. I stood in too many mud-walled villages looking at the mutilated bodies of men, women and children, murdered by U.S.-backed soldiers, death squads and paramilitary units. I heard too many lies spewed out by Ronald Reagan and the State Department to justify these killings. And by the time I was in Gaza, looking at the twisted limbs of dead women and children and listening to Israeli and U.S. officials describe an Israeli airstrike as a “surgical” hit on Islamic militants, it was over. I knew the dark heart of America. I knew who we were, what we did, what we actually stood for and the terrifying and willful innocence that permits most Americans to think of themselves as good and virtuous when they are, in reality, members of an efficient race of killers and ruthless profiteers.  
I was sickened and repulsed. My loyalty shifted from the state, from any state, to the powerless, to the landless peasants in Latin America, the Palestinians in Gaza or the terrified families in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who suffer on the outer reaches of empire, as well as in our internal colonies and sacrifice zones, constitute my country. And any action, including voting, that does not unequivocally condemn and denounce their oppressors is a personal as well as a moral betrayal.  
“We talk of the Turks and abhor the cannibals; but may not some of them go to heaven before some of us?” Herman Melville wrote. “We may have civilized bodies and yet barbarous souls. We are blind to the real sights of this world; deaf to its voices; and dead to its death.” 
For a poor family in Camden, N.J., impoverished residents in the abandoned coal camps in southern West Virginia, the undocumented workers that toil in our nation’s produce fields, Native Americans trapped on reservations, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, those killed by drones in Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or those in the squalid urban slums in Africa, it makes no difference if Mitt Romney or Obama is president.

Hedges concludes:
The crimes of the oppressor are seen among the elite as the administering of justice—law and order, the war on terror, the natural law of globalization, the right granted by privilege and power to shape and govern the world. The oppressor cannot see the West’s false humanism. The oppressor cannot, as James Baldwin wrote, understand that our “history has no moral justification, and the West has no moral authority.” The oppressor, able to speak only in the language of force and increasingly lashing out like a wounded animal, will be consumed in the inferno.  
“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction,” Baldwin wrote, “and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”  

Worst of all? In a poll, 83% of Americans said they support the drone war. EIGHTY-THREE PERCENT.

It sickens me to be an American. Whatever happens to this country, it fully deserves. And I hope to be long gone from here before then. I can no longer associate myself with such a monstrous government, or the ignorant people who joyfully cheer on every blood-soaked atrocity it commits against innocent human beings. 

This country is done.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A statesman says goodbye to a nation that's lost its way

On Nov. 14, 2012, Ron Paul gave his farewell speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. His words were both a summation of the principles our nation was founded on, and an indictment of a political class and a complacent society that has cast those principles aside. Following are some excerpts from the transcript of his speech, with a look at some recent political events to put the good doctor's words in current and timely context.

(Ron's words in bold, to differentiate from other quotes ... and putting them in red text seemed to be a bit much.)

In many ways, according to conventional wisdom, my off-and-on career in Congress, from 1976 to 2012, accomplished very little. No named legislation, no named federal buildings or highways — thank goodness. In spite of my efforts, the government has grown exponentially, taxes remain excessive, and the prolific increase of incomprehensible regulations continues. Wars are constant and pursued without Congressional declaration, deficits rise to the sky, poverty is rampant, and dependency on the federal government is now worse than any time in our history.

All this with minimal concerns for the deficits and unfunded liabilities that common sense tells us cannot go on much longer.  A grand, but never mentioned, bipartisan agreement allows for the well-kept secret that keeps the spending going. One side doesn’t give up one penny on military spending, the other side doesn’t give up one penny on welfare spending, while both sides support the bailouts and subsidies for the banking and corporate elite. And the spending continues as the economy weakens and the downward spiral continues. As the government continues fiddling around, our liberties and our wealth burn in the flames of a foreign policy that makes us less safe.

The major stumbling block to real change in Washington is the total resistance to admitting that the country is broke. This has made compromising, just to agree to increase spending, inevitable since neither side has any intention of cutting spending.

The country and the Congress will remain divisive since there’s no “loot left to divvy up.”
Without this recognition the spenders in Washington will continue the march toward a fiscal cliff much bigger than the one anticipated this coming January.
One side won't budge on military spending, while the other won't budge on entitlements. So true. Mitt Romney said he'd increase military spending, even though our military spending already dwarfs what anyone else in the world spends. And neither party will touch entitlements. Defense and entitlements are the two biggest expenditures in the federal budget -- yet they're both off limits.
Everyone claims support for freedom.  But too often it's for ones own freedom and not for others.  Too many believe that there must be limits on freedom. They argue that freedom must be directed and managed to achieve fairness and equality thus making it acceptable to curtail, through force, certain liberties.
The political left, self-appointed defenders of tolerance, have shown their true colors in this regard several times in 2012. First we had the Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood, the world's largest provider of abortion services. From the outrage and hysteria, you'd have thought women would suddenly be dying on the streets, yet Komen only ever granted PP $650,000 out of a billion-dollar budget and provided funding to only 19 PP clinics for breast-cancer screening. The intolerance was so strident that Komen eventually caved in. 

Then there was the Chick-fil-A dust-up. The restaurant chain's president said he supported what he believed to be the biblical definition of marriage -- in other words, he personally opposed gay marriage. Never mind that there has never been any evidence that the chain has discriminated against gay employees or customers. The mere fact that the company's founder personally espoused a politically unpopular belief was enough to bring down the Left's wrath. The Democratic mayors of Boston and Chicago both said Chick-fil-A wasn't welcome in their cities, with Emanuel proclaiming that "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago's values." (One wonders if he expected the Christian churches in Chicago to pack up and move out.)

Of course, the guy Emanuel used to work for -- Barack Obama -- also opposed gay marriage until he "evolved" on his position just in time for the re-election campaign season to start, but let's just sweep that inconvenient fact under the rug. The bigger issue here is a peek into the minds of those who claim to be so tolerant and open-minded. If Emanuel and Menino think they can tell companies to stay out of their cities based on company owners' personal political views, then they're more intolerant than they even imagine the company owners to be. It's no great feat to be tolerant only of those whose views you agree with. And you can just imagine the outcry if a conservative mayor threatened to ban a left-leaning business owner from doing business in his or her city.

And most recently, we have the reaction to the people petitioning the White House for their states' secession from the union following Obama's re-election. Naturally, the petitions will never be taken seriously, nor should they -- after all, if you want to secede from what you perceive to be your oppressor, you don't ask your oppressor for permission. You take action and do it yourself. You think the confederate states ever intended to ask Lincoln for permission to leave the union? The Declaration of Independence itself is a proclamation of secession from the British Empire -- how far do you think the American Revolution would have gotten if we'd gone to King George and asked nicely for our freedom instead?

In any event, the Left's response to all this silliness has been to also petition the White House -- to strip would-be secessionists of their citizenship and deport them.

Well, gee, so much for freedom of expression. We can't tolerate anyone who doesn't swear total fealty to Lord Obama. Meet the 21st century's Loyalists. 

Funny how quickly 2004 has been forgotten. Back then, after John Kerry lost to George W. Bush, Democrats were ready to join the states Kerry won to our neighbors to the north and create "the United States of Canada," leaving the Bush states to become "Jesusland."

But in fairness, the intolerance of free expression isn't limited to the Left. Joan the Silencer has become the latest Internet meme among libertarians and Paulestinians.

That image comes from the Republican Convention, as Joan Clendenin, a Romney delegate from California, attempts to silence Jeremy Blosser, an alternate Ron Paul delegate from Texas, as he called for a point of order. (As Blosser explains, the mic wasn't on.) This scene followed the convention ruling to unseat part of Maine's pro-Paul delegation and replace them with Romney loyalists.

And that wasn't the only dirty trick in the Romney playbook -- there were reports that entire delegations friendly to Paul were driven around aimlessly on buses so they couldn't get to the convention center to vote on changes from the convention's rules committee. That same committee was responsible for changing the rules to require a minimum of eight states to enter a candidate's name for nomination, after it was clear that Paul had the support of at least five states, which was the number needed for nomination under the then-existing rule. To add insult to injury, another new rule gave the party the power to select state delegates in the future, virtually rendering state primaries and caucuses meaningless but shielding the party from having to deal with a grassroots candidate ever again. (And this was after the Romney camp and the GOP machine in several states did everything in their power, up to and including physical force, to disenfranchise Paul supporters.)

In the end, Paul's name was never put into nomination, and he was never given a chance to speak at the convention. Even if there had been opposition to all these shenanigans from the convention floor -- and there was -- the response from the podium itself had already been scripted on the Teleprompter:

Joan the Silencer's infamous image has been injected into all manner of visuals, with her handful of papers shushing everyone from Jesus to Braveheart to the Founding Fathers. This one speaks for itself:

Well, it tries to speak for itself, anyway.

More from Dr. Paul:
  • Tragically our government engages in preemptive war, otherwise known as aggression, with no complaints from the American people.
  • The drone warfare we are pursuing worldwide is destined to end badly for us as the hatred builds for innocent lives lost and the international laws flaunted. Once we are financially weakened and militarily challenged, there will be a lot resentment thrown our way.
  • It’s now the law of the land that the military can arrest American citizens, hold them indefinitely, without charges or a trial.[ ... ]
  • Why is there so little concern for the Executive Order that gives the President authority to establish a "kill list," including American citizens, of those targeted for assassination?
When you tell people about NDAA, the kill list, and the drone war, many of them are absolutely clueless regarding all of it. But as one group found out, voters will rationalize both things away when you tell them that it's their guy, not the other guy, who's carrying out those policies.

When it's Romney proposing these actions, it's unconscionable. But when it's Obama, well, he must have a good reason, and he's a really good guy otherwise.

This is why there are no antiwar protestors, even as we continue to drone-bomb weddings, funerals, rescuers, women, and children. (Obama launched another drone attack, this one in Yemen, literally hours after being re-elected.) The Left adheres to a double standard for its messiah. As Bruce Springsteen once said, "Blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed." (Of course, the Boss is in the bag for Obama, so take his warning with a grain of salt.)

In a way, you can hardly blame the American people for being oblivious to what the current administration is up to. One astute commenter on Huffington Post took a couple of screen shots of CNN and Al-Jazeera and proved the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words:

On one, actual news. On the other, nothing but fluff. Bread and circuses for everyone.

Fortunately, there are some on the Left with enough intellectual honesty to oppose Obama and his horrible policies that essentially make him an extension of George W. Bush's presidency. Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic had this to say in explaining why he refused to vote for Obama:
  1. Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn't "precise" or "surgical" as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue. 
  2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama's kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done.  
  3. Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security. 
In different ways, each of these transgressions run contrary to candidate Obama's 2008 campaign. (To cite just one more example among many, Obama has done more than any modern executive to wage war on whistleblowers. In fact, under Obama, Bush-era lawbreakers, including literal torturers, have been subject to fewer and less draconian attempts at punishment them than some of the people who conscientiously came forward to report on their misdeeds.) Obama ran in the proud American tradition of reformers taking office when wartime excesses threatened to permanently change the nature of the country. But instead of ending those excesses, protecting civil liberties, rolling back executive power, and reasserting core American values, Obama acted contrary to his mandate. The particulars of his actions are disqualifying in themselves. But taken together, they put us on a course where policies Democrats once viewed as radical post-9/11 excesses are made permanent parts of American life.
He continues:
What about the assertion that Romney will be even worse than Obama has been on these issues? It is quite possible, though not nearly as inevitable as Democrats seem to think. It isn't as though they accurately predicted the abysmal behavior of Obama during his first term, after all. And how do you get worse than having set a precedent for the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens? 
[ ... ]

Sometimes a policy is so reckless or immoral that supporting its backer as "the lesser of two evils" is unacceptable. If enough people start refusing to support any candidate who needlessly terrorizes innocents, perpetrates radical assaults on civil liberties, goes to war without Congress, or persecutes whistleblowers, among other misdeeds, post-9/11 excesses will be reined in.

If not?

So long as voters let the bipartisan consensus on these questions stand, we keep going farther down this road, America having been successfully provoked by Osama bin Laden into abandoning our values.

We tortured.

We started spying without warrants on our own citizens.

We detain indefinitely without trial or public presentation of evidence.

We continue drone strikes knowing they'll kill innocents, and without knowing that they'll make us safer.

Is anyone looking beyond 2012?

The future I hope for, where these actions are deal-breakers in at least one party (I don't care which), requires some beginning, some small number of voters to say, "These things I cannot support."  

[ ... ]

I can respect counterarguments, especially when advanced by utilitarians who have no deal-breakers of their own. But if you're a Democrat who has affirmed that you'd never vote for an opponent of gay equality, or a torturer, or someone caught using racial slurs, how can you vote for the guy who orders drone strikes that kill hundreds of innocents and terrorizes thousands more -- and who constantly hides the ugliest realities of his policy (while bragging about the terrorists it kills) so that Americans won't even have all the information sufficient to debate the matter for themselves?

How can you vilify Romney as a heartless plutocrat unfit for the presidency, and then enthusiastically recommend a guy who held Bradley Manning in solitary and killed a 16-year-old American kid? If you're a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes.

But I don't see many Obama supporters feeling as reluctant as the circumstances warrant. 

The whole liberal conceit that Obama is a good, enlightened man, while his opponent is a malign, hard-hearted cretin, depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans -- along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers -- just aren't valued. Alternatively, the less savory parts of Obama's tenure can just be repeatedly disappeared from the narrative of his first term, as so many left-leaning journalists, uncomfortable confronting the depths of the man's transgressions, have done over and over again.   

Keen on Obama's civil-libertarian message and reassertion of basic American values, I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second.
As for that dead 16-year-old American kid, killed by Obama's war machine with not even a shred of due process, Obama's advisor offers the following: 

"I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children."

It's not Obama's fault that Obama targeted the kid. The kid should have had a better dad.

Wow. Just wow. Kudos to Conor Friedersdorf for holding Obama's feet to the fire. We need more people of integrity like him to speak up and demand that we won't allow this to stand.

Back to Ron Paul:
Why does changing the party in power never change policy? Could it be that the views of both parties are essentially the same?
I heard lots of people stating the cases for their chosen candidate this election cycle, and what I heard was less than inspiring. Over and over again, people didn't defend their own candidate as much as they talked about how horrible things would be if the other guy got elected (or re-elected). Not only is that a sad commentary on American politics, but it's also an indication of how most voters get caught up in the ridiculous narratives, perpetuated by the major parties and their media lackeys, that suggest such a stark, vast difference between Democrats and Republicans, based mostly on a few hot-button social issues.
In reality, the parties sound more and more alike with each passing election, and it's clear that they both serve the same corporate masters.

Not surprisingly, it takes a foreign observer to point this out. The Political Compass, a U.K. political-quiz site, offered a brilliant summation of the 2012 presidential election. I share it here in its entirety -- complete with critiques of all the candidates, including Dr. Paul:
This is a US election that defies logic and brings the nation closer towards a one-party state masquerading as a two-party state.

The Democratic incumbent has surrounded himself with conservative advisors and key figures — many from previous administrations, and an unprecedented number from the Trilateral Commission. He also appointed a former Monsanto executive as Senior Advisor to the FDA. He has extended Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, presided over a spiralling rich-poor gap and sacrificed further American jobs with recent free trade deals. Trade union rights have also eroded under his watch. He has expanded Bush defence spending, droned civilians, failed to close Guantanamo, supported the NDAA which effectively legalises martial law, allowed drilling and adopted a soft-touch position towards the banks that is to the right of European Conservative leaders. Taking office during the financial meltdown, Obama appointed its principle architects to top economic positions. We list these because many of Obama's detractors absurdly portray him as either a radical liberal or a socialist, while his apologists, equally absurdly, continue to view him as a well-intentioned progressive, tragically thwarted by overwhelming pressures. 2008's yes-we-can chanters, dazzled by pigment rather than policy detail, forgot to ask can what? Between 1998 and the last election, Obama amassed $37.6million from the financial services industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. While 2008 presidential candidate Obama appeared to champion universal health care, his first choice for Secretary of Health was a man who had spent years lobbying on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry against that very concept. Hey! You don't promise a successful pub, and then appoint the Salvation Army to run it. This time around, the honey-tongued President makes populist references to economic justice, while simultaneously appointing as his new Chief of Staff a former Citigroup executive concerned with hedge funds that bet on the housing market to collapse. Obama poses something of a challenge to The Political Compass, because he's a man of so few fixed principles.

As outrageous as it may appear, civil libertarians and human rights supporters would have actually fared better under a Republican administration. Had a Bush or McCain presidency permitted extrajudicial executions virtually anywhere in the world ( ), expanded drone strikes and introduced the NDAA, the Democratic Party would have howled from the rooftops. Senator Obama the Constitutional lawyer would have been one of the most vocal objectors. Under a Democratic administration however, these far-reaching developments have received scant opposition and a disgraceful absence of mainstream media coverage.

Democratic and, especially, some Republican candidates, will benefit massively from new legislation that permits them to receive unlimited and unaccountable funding. This means a significant shift of political power to the very moneyed interests that earlier elections tried to contain. Super PACs will inevitably reshape the system and undermine democracy. It would be naïve to suppose that a President Gingrich would feel no obligations towards his generous backer, Sheldon Adelson, one of the country's most influential men. Or a President Santorum towards billionaire mutual fund tycoon, Foster Freiss. (Santorum emerged as the most authoritarian candidate, not the least for his extreme stand against abortion and condom sales.) Or a President Paul, whose largest single donor, billionaire Peter Thiel, founded a controversial defence company contracting to the CIA and the FBI. Last year it was caught operating an illegal spy ring targeting opponents of the US Chamber of Commerce. In our opinion the successful GOP contender, Romney, despite his consistent contempt for the impoverished, was correctly described as the weather vane candidate. He shares another similarity with Obama. His corporate-friendly health care plan for Massachusetts was strikingly similar to the President's "compromise" package. The emergence of the Tea Party enables the 2012 GOP ticket of unprecedented economic extremity to present itself as middle-of-the road — between an ultra right movement with "some good ideas that might go a bit too far" and, on the other side, a dangerous "socialist" president.

The smaller non-Tea parties provide the only substantial electoral diversity — virtually unreported — in their Sisyphean struggle against the two mountainous conservative machines. Identity issues like gay marriage disguise the absence of fundamental differences and any real contrast of vision. Since FDR, the mainstream American "Left" has been much more concerned with the social rather than the economic scale. Identity politics; issues like peace, immigration, gay and women's rights, prayers in school have assumed far greater importance than matters like pensions and minimum wages that preoccupy their counterparts in other democracies. Hence the appeal of Ron Paul to many liberals, despite his far-right economics. Paul, unlike Romney, would have delivered a significant crossover vote from Democrats.

If Romney loses the election, it would hardly be devastating for mainstream Republicans. During a second term of Obama, they would no doubt continue to frame the debates.
The tiny space between Obama and Romney on the Political Compass grid only serves to drive the point home:

That little gap between them is what so many American voters get hysterical over. The guys are two sides of the same coin, and most people either can't see it or are so invested in their particular political ideology that they choose not to.

For reference, here's where Ron Paul stands in comparison with the other candidates. (I superimposed his spot on a graph from the 2008 primary candidates.)

More from Ron:
Why are sick people who use medical marijuana put in prison?
And why is one dispenser of medical marijuana, a man who followed his state's laws, now facing 80  years in prison -- after the Obama administration said it wouldn't crack down on medical marijuana users?

And what will happen now that Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana use? Will Obama roll in the tanks and begin mass arrests? Don't be surprised to see the feds crack down hard if push comes to shove in these two states.

Dr. Paul:
Sacrificing a little liberty for imaginary safety always ends badly.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Ben Franklin

Some argue it’s only a matter of “fairness” that those in need are cared for. There are two problems with this. First, the principle is used to provide a greater amount of benefits to the rich than the poor. Second, no one seems to be concerned about whether or not it’s fair to those who end up paying for the benefits. The costs are usually placed on the backs of the middle class and are hidden from the public eye. Too many people believe government handouts are free, like printing money out of thin air, and there is no cost. That deception is coming to an end. The bills are coming due and that’s what the economic slowdown is all about.
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship." -- Attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler

The Internet will provide the alternative to the government/media complex that controls the news and most political propaganda. This is why it's essential that the Internet remains free of government regulation.
The truth is out there. It's just a matter of getting people to turn off their TVs, stop being spoon-fed, and do their own research.

What a wonderful world it would be if everyone accepted the simple moral premise of rejecting all acts of aggression.
So true.
There's every reason to believe that a renewed effort with the use of the Internet that we can instead advance the cause of liberty by spreading an uncensored message that will serve to rein in government authority and challenge the obsession with war and welfare.

What I'm talking about is a system of government guided by the moral principles of peace and tolerance.

[ ... ]

A moral people must reject all violence in an effort to mold people’s beliefs or habits.

A society that boos or ridicules the Golden Rule is not a moral society. All great religions endorse the Golden Rule. The same moral standards that individuals are required to follow should apply to all government officials. They cannot be exempt.
In short, who would Jesus bomb?

One wonders whom Dr. Paul had in mind with the following statement:
The immoral use of force is the source of man's political problems. Sadly, many religious groups, secular organizations, and psychopathic authoritarians endorse government initiated force to change the world.  Even when the desired goals are well-intentioned — or especially when well-intentioned — the results are dismal. The good results sought never materialize. The new problems created require even more government force as a solution. The net result is institutionalizing government initiated violence and morally justifying it on humanitarian grounds. This is the same fundamental reason our government  uses force  for invading other countries at will, central economic planning at home, and the regulation of personal liberty and habits of our citizens.
Did Ron Paul just call out his fellow members of Congress as a band of "psychopathic authoritarians"? If so, he was spot-on with his assessment.

And finally:
The No. 1 responsibility for each of us is to change ourselves with hope that others will follow. This is of greater importance than working on changing the government; that is secondary to promoting a virtuous society. If we can achieve this, then the government will change.

It doesn't mean that political action or holding office has no value. At times it does nudge policy in the right direction. But what is true is that when seeking office is done for personal aggrandizement, money or power, it becomes useless if not harmful. When political action is taken for the right reasons it’s easy to understand why compromise should be avoided. It also becomes clear why progress is best achieved by working with coalitions, which bring people together, without anyone sacrificing his principles.

Political action, to be truly beneficial, must be directed toward changing the hearts and minds of the people, recognizing that it's the virtue and morality of the people that allow liberty to flourish.
The Constitution or more laws per se, have no value if the people's attitudes aren't changed. 

To achieve liberty and peace, two powerful human emotions have to be overcome. Number one is envy, which leads to hate and class warfare. Number two is intolerance, which leads to bigoted and judgmental policies. These emotions must be replaced with a much better understanding of love, compassion, tolerance and free market economics. Freedom, when understood, brings people together. When tried, freedom is popular.

The problem we have faced over the years has been that economic interventionists are swayed by envy, whereas social interventionists are swayed by intolerance of habits and lifestyles. The misunderstanding that tolerance is an endorsement of certain activities, motivates many to legislate moral standards which should only be set by individuals making their own choices. Both sides use force to deal with these misplaced emotions. Both are authoritarians. Neither endorses voluntarism. 

Both views ought to be rejected.

I have come to one firm conviction after these many years of trying to figure out "the plain truth of things." The best chance for achieving peace and prosperity, for the maximum number of people world-wide, is to pursue the cause of liberty.

If you find this to be a worthwhile message, spread it throughout the land.
In this election, Gary Johnson received more than a million votes, the largest ever for a Libertarian candidate. We may never know how many people wrote in Ron Paul as their candidate. But we do know that at least 1% of the electorate voted for liberty in this election cycle.

That's small, but it's encouraging. One can only hope that spreading this inspiring speech from Ron Paul will ignite the fires of liberty among enough people to someday make a difference -- perhaps in the same way Thomas Paine's Common Sense pamphlet once roused the colonies to action against the British Empire.

Though in all honesty, I think it's too late. Even Dr. Paul says the nation has already veered off the fiscal cliff and that there just aren't enough people who can rise to power to help right the ship in time, especially with so many people wanting so much from the government. And when you consider that 118 million Americans voted for either Obama or Romney, it's clear that the vast majority of voting Americans continue to be led around by the nose, gobbling up the lies and propaganda that the major parties and the media shovel out -- even to the point of voting against their own interests, as seen in California, where a spending blitz by chemical companies and Big Agribusiness actually convinced voters that they shouldn't demand to know whether their food is genetically modified.

Of course, if Obama had stuck to his 2007 campaign pledge to fight for GMO labeling, this wouldn't be an issue -- but you can't appoint Monsanto hacks to positions of power and expect them to get with the program. They're the ones who killed the California proposal, after all. And so America remains the only industrialized nation that doesn't mandate GMO labeling, which is an indication of just how much corporate interests control everything in this country. Corporations got a health-care plan that enriches them by mandating that all Americans buy private insurance, while health costs continue to spiral out of control. And now the corporations have defeated your right to know what's in your food -- courtesy of the voters themselves.

This nation is overrun with mindless, obedient sheep, and the politicians and their corporate puppetmasters take full advantage of it, granting themselves more and more wealth and power at our expense.

The fight for liberty may at this point be futile, but it is still a noble fight, and thank goodness we still have people brave enough to speak the truth. You will be missed, Dr. Paul. Thank you for all you've done in defense of liberty.