Author Archives: Christopher Bowen

Normalizing Relations with Cuba is Long Overdue

mandela-obama-castro

Today, the White House announced that they were looking to thaw relations with Cuba for the first time since President John F. Kennedy severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in January of 1961, which preceded the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion that following April. In their statement, the White House noted that fifty years of sanctions and other actions against Cuba have failed to achieve their stated means. This seems to be inarguable; ever since those severed ties, the relationship between the United States and Cuba has been highly antagonistic, with America using its financial and political clout to install strict financial sanctions against them, largely punishing them for adopting a communist government and aligning with the Soviet Union until the latter’s dissolution.

Under the terms laid out simultaneously by the White House and Cuban President Raul Castro, US residents could travel to Cuba for tourism, and Cuba would be allowed to accept United States credit cards. President Obama has also requested Secretary of State John Kerry to begin a review of Cuba’s standing on the list State Sponsor(s) of Terrorism, and some prisoners – most notably American Alan Gross – have been exchanged.

Of course, everything is not as cut and dried as Obama simply waiving his hands and saying “make it so”. For one, most Cuban sanctions are codified in American law, per Doug Mataconis. The number one opponent is going to be Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose views echo those of many Cuban exiles and their family members who refuse to deal with Cuba so long as the Castro brothers are in power. Combined with Congress’s total inability to get anything done of note, there is going to be resistance before relations can be formally normalized.1 Naturally, when diplomacy is on the table, there is also a contingent of Americans – the hawks – that are not satisfied unless we’re blowing someone up.

Frankly, it’s well past time for us to normalize relations with Cuba. We had better relations with Russia – the number one antagonist in the Cold War – for a time than we did with Cuba, and all because of… what? The Cuban Missile Crisis, which we instigated with the Bay of Pigs invasion? Punishment for dealing with the Soviet Union back in the early 60s? Some assassination attempts against Presidents, by a country that we invaded? That stupid picture of noted murderer and tyrant Che Guevara being printed on T-shirts and postcards? Actually, that might be a really good reason after all…

Don’t mistake this for altruism. The intention here is definitely to line the pockets of private industry as the mandate’s stated goals of increasing internet penetration and American tourism start to take seed. There’s also the view that ending the embargo will hurt Raul and Fidel Castro as people start to realize the magic of capitalism, a view that seems to be shared by Hillary Clinton. Lastly, our request for Cuba to improve their human rights record is pretty funny, contextually speaking. But even if it’s bad for Cuba’s leaders, opening up relations with Cuba is not only the best thing for Cuba’s people, it’s the best thing for America, as well. We not only get a fertile ground for business dealings – a problem only for hard-core communists and socialists – but we look much better to the United Nations, now that it’s not just us and Israel holding out.

Ultimately, the end of the embargo, and the surety of the overall improvement to both the Cuban economy and the quality of life of its people, will prove one key point: America, and capitalism, won the Cold War, and it was a rout. The Soviet Union’s been dead for over twenty years, replaced by a plutocracy. Cuba will fundamentally change after holding out for decades purely out of spite. And other countries such as China are communist in name only. If the Cold War was a fight between American capitalism and communism, it’s over, and it was a slaughter.

1 – I would not be surprised if a Republican controlled Congress put the brakes on this for at least two years so as not to give Obama credit.

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

The Senate Torture Report Will Change Nothing

I realize this is from Abu Ghraib, but at this point, does it matter?

I realize this is from Abu Ghraib, but at this point, does it matter?

The recently released report on CIA-authorized torture of detainees and prisoners includes everything we’ve known about our tortu– *ahem*, enhanced interrogation techniques of people at places like Guantanamo Bay, and then some. Featuring gruesome descriptions of waterboarding, beatings and “rectal feeding” – I didn’t know you could feed someone through their asshole1 – I’m not sure if the most shocking thing is the descriptino of what happened, or the fact that the reports we got – 600 out of 6,000 pages, and heavily redacted – is just the tip of the iceberg. Simply put, between this and the ongoing protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, it’s not a good month so far for the government at virtually any level.

One would expect, after hearing “we’re not torturing people”, then seeing a report blatantly state that we’re definitely torturing people, that this would spur Congress to action, and if they wanted to drag their asses, the American people would spur them on, right?

If only it was that easy. Nothing will happen as a result of this. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised, as I write this on Tuesday night, if this was completely out of the news by the time the weekend comes. There are numerous reasons why I believe this disgusting report will ultimately blow over.

The release of this report wasn’t about policy. It was payback. – While Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was in front of cameras, accusing the CIA of lying to the President, the Senate, and just about everyone else it came across, all I could do was remember back to March, when she was going after the CIA for improperly accessing Senate computers as the Senate Intelligence Committee was preparing its report of detention and interrogation policies. The release of this report – the last chance to do so, by the SIC’s outgoing chairperson before Republicans take over the Senate – is a giant “fuck you” to John Brennan and the rest of the CIA. It’s a political receipt. At no point did transparency for the sake of improving our standing in the world and with our country’s citizens come into play, no matter how it’s spun.

Also, for all of Feinstein’s grandstanding, it should be noted that she’s probably the National Security Agency’s biggest cheerleader, and is perfectly fine with government agencies spying on ordinary Americans.

No one wants to set the precedent of trying major political figures – President Obama – who campaigned on transparency, fixing clandestine government actions, and ending wars – backed off of going hard after Bush Administration officials who started most of our torture programs after 9/11. He kept that limp-wristed, wishy-washy tack yesterday, praising the “patriots” who protected America after the attacks. Of course Obama doesn’t want to look back; if we decide to look back at his own Presidency in eight years, chances are very good that his two wars in Iraq and Syria, as well as his actions in Libya, would not survive scrutiny. In fact, if one looks back, the only President I can find who wasn’t guilty of either a war crime or a domestic action that could bring a death sentence is Carter. If we were to start trying major political figures, especially with a partisan bent, at what point do we cross the line from righteousness to Nixonian? No matter how much we want blood – a sardonic statement, given the circumstances – the political cost is too great.

It’s this reality that the ACLU’s Anthony Romero concedes to in his NYT Op-Ed stating that we should pardon Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others guilty of torturing or overseeing said torture. Romero’s intentions are noble – partly to shame Obama, partly to allow some the authority to talk without fear of retribution, and partly to further stain the names of Cheney and others – if not satisfying. We’re still prosecuting low-level Nazis 70 years after World War II, and we’re expected to pardon people who tortured people within the past ten years?

We’ve done this for years – Here is a brief summary of what our government is capable of: Operation Condor, Japanese-American Internment, Project ARTICHOKE, MKUltra, COINTELPRO, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, the My Lai massacre, Iran-Contra, and more political overthrows than I can count… and that’s just since World War II. Shoving hummus up someone’s ass doesn’t even make the top five of that list, and that’s before I get to the Trail of Tears.

Most damningly…

Most Americans don’t give a shit – This is the most depressing part. I expect conservatives to beat the “kill the raghead!” drum, but it’s the liberals I’m most disappointed in. Outside of the Glenn Greenwald/Edward Snowden crowd2, there’s not much noise because everyone’s too busy with other issues. Today, it’s mostly the deaths of Garner, Brown, Tamir Rice and others that are starting to cause overreactions. Most liberals who are making noise about this are forgetting everything that’s happened since January 20th of 2009, preferring to put 100% of the blame on Bush and his people. In short, when it’s not a convenient partisan talking point, it’s a “they” problem, not a “we” problem, with “they” being those unfortunate enough to be threatened with their families being raped. Put simply, the only people that really care are the sadists, and those that cater to them. While it’s fun to watch Andrea Tantaros have a meltdown on national TV, it’s important to remember that her views are shared by almost half the country. And then we wonder why ISIL is beheading Americans.

I love America, but I’ve never been more ashamed of my country. It’s depressing to know that despite pretty clear indications of war crimes, no one will go to jail for it except those that reported it in the first place, no policy will change as a result of the torture report, and there’s a strong chance that by this time next week we’ll all be talking about the “War on Christmas” or some other made-up bullshit. We are too ill-informed, too shallow, and too lazy for any other result to come about from this.

2 – This is your friendly reminder that while the architects of torture since 9/11 still walk free, Edward Snowden is in Russia, John Kiriakou is in prison, Chelsea Manning is in prison, and Wikileaks’ Julian Assange is being held at the Ecuadorian Embassey in the United Kingdom on trumped up sexual assault charges

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Oath Keepers Protect St. Louis Until Being Disbanded By The Police They Effectively Replaced

In response to the looting that has damaged numerous businesses in Ferguson, MO since last Monday’s announceemnt that former police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for killing Michael Brown, a group called the Oath Keepers descended onto Ferguson to protect businesses from being damaged or destroyed by rioters, oftentimes by setting up armed sentries on rooftops. Over the long weekend, St. Louis County’s police officers demanded that the group disperse.

Threatened with arrest for operating without a license, the volunteers argued but eventually left their positions early Saturday, Rhodes said.

“We are going to go back as protesters,” Rhodes said Saturday afternoon.

(…)

“We thought they were going to do it right this time,” Rhodes said of government response to the grand jury decision released Monday in the Michael Brown case. “But when Monday rolled around and they didn’t park the National Guard at these businesses, that’s when we said we have got to do something.

“Historically, the government almost always fails to protect people,” he added.

The Oath Keepers were started in 2009 as a militia-like force that advocates military and law enforcement personnel disobey orders that are in violation of the Constitution of the United States. Despite accusations of racism, they were started in 2009 by a Mexican-American, Stewart Rhodes, who graduated from Yale Law School and once worked for Ron Paul. They have dodged criticism for years and are regarded by some as extremists or domestic terrorists, though they maintain a 30,000 strong member base and are highly regarded among libertarian parts of the Tea Party movement.

I am personally sceptical of the Oath Keepers because I feel their tin-foil, Alex Jones-like views on the government are extreme to say the very least. Any group that gains traction due to the election of one man and finds common cause with the birther movement tends to draw scrutiny. With that said, I find it very hard to blame anyone locally for being very happy to see them. Whatever one’s views on Michael Brown’s killing – I was very dim on the “no indictment” ruling – the fact is that St. Louis County has handled the entire situation in Ferguson and surrounding areas in an illegal, borderline evil fashion. They instigated an already edgy populace from moment one, turning military-grade weapons on the citizens they “police” in a method of crowd control so poorly conceived it raised legitimate questions as to whether or not the police were intentionally trying to rile their citizens.

As the grand jury’s announcement approached, the mistakes continued. It was announced at 8PM CST, with advance warning and a preemptive call for National Guard support. They gunned for a fight, prepared for a fight, and then stoked a fight. Since then, the overly militarized police, and the actual military, guarded the police station but left local businesses to burn. After blaming the failure to indict a man who shot at an unarmed teenager twelve times on social media, they proceeded to protect their own stuff while totally abandoning any pretense of protecting anyone locally. The failures of the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments are so legion, so flagrant, and so damaging that multiple people involved in them should never hold jobs in authority again. Their treatment of those doing their job for them only exemplifies what has been a clown car.

In light of that, is it any wonder that the Oath Keepers – at heart, an anti-government organization that is convinced martial law is imminent – would show up? This isn’t just why they were conceived; it proves all of their fears, all of their statements, and all of their actions to be legitimate, or at the very least to have a degree of truth to them. “The government is against the people!” isn’t just the cry of a guy who failed Western Civ; in this case, it’s a provable fact. The police in this area have shown more effort in going after football players than they have in any form of police work.

In striking down the Oath Keepers, the local authorities might have made them more powerful than they could ever imagine. I expect membership to spike, hard.

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Net Neutrality: A Complex Issue With No Satisfactory Solutions

Yesterday, Chris Byrne had a write-up regarding President Obama’s “stated” support for Net Neutrality. “Stated” is in scare quotes because, as Chris noted, President Obama’s support for this ( much like his “support” for gay marriage) is a limp-wristed attempt to mollify his young, technologically literate base.

Of course, because it’s Obama and there’s a cottage industry dedicated to demonizing him, Ted Cruz had to come out with the stupidest political statement of the year (Non-Dollard/Kincannon Division).

With the mainstream attention these positions will now bring, and with an FCC decision on the issue due in 2015, the issue can no longer be ignored:

Net Neutrality is a major political issue, right now.

Chris Byrne correctly noted, that the lack of competitive options in local internet access is the primary factor leading us into the situation we’re in now. A deeper look into this shows… yeah, it shows we’re screwed either way.At the moment, there are no realistic answers that will satisfy consumers.

The explanation as to why is complex, to say the least.

Keep in mind that as I go through the issues surrounding net neutrality, I will be attempting to take common arguments, and technical background, and break them down into layman’s terms. Although readers of The Liberty Papers tend to skew more educated than most, I understand that not everyone is tech savvy enough to understand much about how the internet works beyond “I go to Google and email shows up!”. » Read more

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Screw the Parties! Vote Your Heart, Not With FUD

Indepedent-woters-on-the-rise

So far today, we have posts from Matt Souders and Sarah Baker as to why voting a certain party affiliation is a better idea for libertarians. They’re well reasoned, well backed up, and ultimately, I believe, short sighted.

I have a different idea: forget the letters next to the names. Forget “tactical” voting. If libertarians, as a movement, want to make real change, they need to vote independently, without any care for party affiliation. In some cases, they should even write in a vote for someone off the main ballots.

The Trojan Horse

As a libertarian, I’m used to being toyed with. Republicans want my vote to fix the economy. Democrats want my vote to address social issues (translation: “lol smoke weed erryday y’all”) and to keep us from going to war. And every time we’ve gone one way or the other, we’ve gotten burned.

The Tea Party was started largely as a protest against goverment overspending, and candidates were elected to office – including in a massive wave in 2010 – to address that. Unfortunately, once they got into office, spending didn’t go down appreciably in many cases. Instead, they spent all their time implementing what I derisively call “Jesus Laws”: socially conservative laws put in to please white, middle-aged and older Christian voters. If you hate abortion, you love the Tea Party, but otherwise, I’d argue they’ve done more harm than good.

Of course, the Tea Party burns today as a fight against the mainstream Republicans who have run the party for so long and who have contributed to so many of our problems, including our blown up debt. Men like John McCain and Peter King are anathema to these people for their desire to wage war for any reason and being “squishy” on spending. The ironic thing, from the perspective of the Tea Party, is that they keep invoking the name of Reagan, who was the catalyst for the big-spending Republican Party.

Democrats, of course, have always been the big spenders, but at least they will care about social liberties and not going to war, right? Not so fast. The same Barack Obama who was so anti-Iraq War in 2003, and who ran on being against it in 2008 – arguably winning on that front – has since engaged us in multiple illegal wars in Syria and Libya, and is engaging in illegal actions in Iraq once again as a fight against the Islamic State. Civil liberties? Hah, ask the conservative groups targeted by the IRS, and the reporters and whistleblowers being targeted by the government in the war on leaks. All of this from a man who campaigned against the very things he now stands for. For Pesci’s sake, it took Joe Biden’s diharrea of the mouth to get the President to come around on gay marriage.

The underlying point is that the people campaigning to reform the system often get co-opted by it, and being a part of a major party hurts that. The party simply doesn’t help outliers, and trying to take the party from within is going to prove to be a very hard road – one that could take a generation – for liberty-minded people on either side of the divide. Candidates become different people once they’ve been voted into office; their responsibility to their constituents largely ends at that point, as shown by the extraordinary retention rate in Congress. Once in office, the peoples’ use is finished, and they are summarily discarded.

The Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt of the Two Party System

We’ve heard it before: “A vote for X is a vote for Y”. This often comes about when libertarians – either in primaries, or in general elections where they’re petitioning candidates or running on a big-L Libertarian ticket – represent a threat to the status quo. Most recently was the case of Robert Sarvis, who many argue cost Ken Cuccinelli the governor’s mansion in Virginia by drawing 6.5% of the vote, well above Terry McAuliffe’s margin of victory.

This is a good thing, which is not something I say because I personally find Cuccinelli repulsive; that would be the case if Sarvis or anyone else took things to the other extreme and cost a Democrat an election. Anything that upsets the two-party apple cart is a positive development. The system needs a few shocks. If that means some weak candidates of either party have to get voted out, so be it.

One of the most common refrains we hear is that Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter because it’s just two heads of the same dragon. Outside influences – of all shapes and sizes – are like a knight fighting that dragon. The odds are against him, and it’s very likely he’ll be burnt to a crisp by their fire, but even dragons get tired from constantly fighting off outside threats. Also, the more third parties get involved, the more powerful their influence with the media. The best part of Robert Sarvis drawing “only” 6.5% of the vote in Virginia is that it caused a lot of writers to drop a lot of ink/pixels noting how upsetting a force his candidacy was. Even Gary Johnson’s largely Quixotic bid for the Presidency, which drew 1% of the vote, was good for bringing positive attention to libertarian causes. It’s a slow trudge, but the more attention it gets, the better.

Besides, the other half is just as bad, right? So what if a Terry McAuliffe wins an election? Or even Barack Obama or George W. Bush? Liberals who hated Bush likely wouldn’t have loved Gore, and conservatives who deplore Obama wouldn’t be happy with McCain or Romney, either. If they’re saying they’re simply marginally more happy, they’ve already lost. Eating crumbs off the table still leaves a person malnourished.

The Libertarian Party: Our Unreliable Ally

After all this, it’s obvious that we should all rally around the Libertarian Party as our cause celebre, as Sarah argues in her post, right? Not so fast. A closer look shows they’re unreliable at best, and outright using the party at worst. For the most part, the Libertarian Party has been a sort of rehabilitation centre for C-list Republicans, the equivalent of a baseball player being demoted to the minor leagues to work on his swing before being promoted back to the big time.

I need to preface this with an admission: I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I’m not even ashamed of it. While I didn’t buy the “Hope and Change” nonsesne, I did at least concede at the time that he wasn’t Bush, and wasn’t a Republican. However, another major thing in his favour was that the Libertarians were putting forth an embarrassing ticket of Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root.

Bob Barr was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican during the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Revolution. While in office, Barr was such a hard supporter of the War on Drugs that he was voted out of Congress… with support from the Libertarian Party he would eventually represent. He also supported the Defense of Marriage Act before he was against it, voted for the Patriot Act, and voted for the Iraq War. The LP went from destroying Barr’s career to building it back up again, only to watch him go back to being a Republican in 2011.

As for Root, I’ll let my colleague Doug Mataconis take this one. Root, by the way, rejoined the Republican Party in 2012.

The Libertarian Party is used to grifters. Even Ron Paul used the ticket in 1988 to run for President, before almost immediately switching back to the Republican Party after the 1988 election. When it’s not doing rehab, the Libertarian Party has a succinct problem with crackpots and kooks; Michael Badnarik, the 2004 candidate for President, is a 9/11 truther.

Individual Liberty at the Ballot Box

None of this is intended to persuade anyone to vote one way or the other. In fact, the whole point of this is to point out an obvious truth: our current system isn’t working, and those who allow themselves to be co-opted by larger forces almost always end up disappointed.

What I will call for, however, is a call to conscience. Individual votes are ultimately irrelevant so long as one is voting to their personal convictions, and a request for those who tactically vote – like those who would vote for Mitt Romney despite prefering Gary Johnson – to reconsider. If you think a candidate is a preferable candidate, vote for that candidate. If that candidate lost a primary, write him in. If you think Elmer Fudd is a better option, guess what? Write in Elmer Fudd! Why not? We know he supports the Second Amendment, at least.

The key is never to fall in line with big-party dogma, it’s to ensure that people are voting with their hearts, saying what they want, and in the process sending a very strong message that the status quo is not acceptable. If we can’t even show individual liberty in the ballot box, how can we hope to achieve it in the legislature?

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

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