Horse Grinder

Foreign Policy and Human Rights

by Nash Turley on November 3

I am now making vlog-style videos on youtube as a new way to spread our social and political messages. Check out my first video below that discusses the implications of a quote from an influential foreign policy planner post-WWII.

Here is the full quote by George Kennan I read in the video:

“Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 of its population…In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity… To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives…We should cease to talk about vague…unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

Please leave any comments here or on youtube if you have any thoughts.

A recent study found that the opinion of the general population (lowest 90% on an economic scale) has no influence on policy decisions. However, the opinion of the richest 10% was strongly positively correlated with policy. In other words, very rich people get what they want and the rest have no influence. So the question is, why? Well, it’s the ol’ money in politics story with lobbyist and PACs buying election etc etc. It’s all well explained in this video:

So, what should we do about it? Well, there are several groups looking to take action on this issue, most notably, Move to Amend, Represent Us, and Wolf PAC.

The Represent Us plan is to to pass anti-corruptions laws locally and then, eventually, nationally.

The Wolf PAC plan is to pass a constitutional amendment that repeals Citizen’s United supreme court decision and limit individual campaign contributions. This will be done by passing legislation in 34 states (it has passed in 4 already) which calls for a convention of the States which drafts the amendment, completely bypassing congress. That amendment must then be ratified by 38 states to become law.

The Move to Amend plan also seeks a constitutional amendment by having it introduced in congress which then has to be ratified by a 3/4 vote.

The exciting thing about taking action on this issue is that >90% of voters support of some form of campaign finance reform. There are basically no issues with that much broad support; we will be successful and we will take back our democracy! If you want to take action I suggesting clicking through the links above and researching which you think is best. For the record, I volunteer with Wolf PAC.

Plutocracy and War With Iran

by Nash Turley on April 19

Why are they pushing for war with Iran? Because it will make oil companies, defence contractors, arm manufacturers, etc, rich, and these are the people that finance politicians’ elections. Get money out of politics or war will be endless. wolf-pac.com

Trans-Pacific Partnership

by Nash Turley on April 16

This is the most X-Files-Like Secret Government Conspiracy shit I’ve ever heard of. Basically multinational corporations are looking to give themselves the power and authority of nation states so they can fuck over the poor and powerless with greater impunity, and politicians are secretly helping them, of course.

Bought And Paid For

by Nash Turley on April 16

In case somehow you were not convinced that we live in a plutocracy not a democracy, check out this brief interview with Alan Grayson, who is the only representative in congress to raise most his campaign dollars with small contributions, he says: “…to a large degree, in both parties, because of the absence of campaign finance reform, the place [congress] is bought and paid for. And the only question is: Do the members stay bought?” He continues: “if we do nothing, you can kiss this country goodbye. Well, pucker up, because right now the millionaires and the billionaires and the multinational corporations are calling the shots with whatever they want”

Bill O’Rielly Is A Lying Sack of Shit

by Nash Turley on March 31

We said “Bill O’Rielly is a lying sack of shit” back in 2008, now there is a flurry of information showing just how true that is. But does Fox News care? Not at all, because a lying sack of shit is exactly what they want.

Spokesperson for the state department gets set straight in response to blatant lies about US foreign policy. She said it was “ludicrous” that US supported a coup in Venezuela and that “As a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means.” Both statements are the opposite of reality.  She, and others like her, must get so used to spouting lies with impunity so it’s very interesting to see her response to getting called out.

Politics in the US are broken. This is not a democracy anymore it is a plutocracy—a political system run by, and for, the wealthy. This is because politicians have little incentive to work to help the poor, which make up an overwhelming, and rapidly growing, majority. Greater than 90% of elections are won by the candidate that raises the most money and currently the very wealthy can contribute virtually unlimited funds to campaigns.

This is why we need a constitutional amendment calling for sweeping campaign finance reform that: 1) puts much stronger restrictions on the contributions of individuals, and 2) strips corporations of their personhood and thus their ability to donate to political campaigns. One poll showed that 97% of people would support a federal campaign finance reform law. When is there that level of agreement on any political issue? And that fact that our representatives are not acting on this issues despite nearly universal agreement among their constituents shows how broken the system is.

This is where Wolf-Pac comes in. It is a political action committee and nation-wide collective of volunteers working state-by-state to introduce legislation that will call for a constitutional amendment. If 34 states pass this legislation (3 already have, California, Illinois, and Vermont!) then the amendment can be enacted, bypassing the congress and senate. It is local small-scale politics that you can easily be a part of, and make a clear difference in, that can work to address the most important issue in this country right now.

I am currently volunteering with Wolf-Pac Michigan, calling state representatives and senators, trying to get the legislation introduced. Join me and thousands of others around the country to make the change we all want!

Alberta Tarsands

by Nash Turley on November 18

Ominous and disturbing images from the Alberta Tar Sands. More facts like “The second largest dam on earth is holding back toxic sludge in the tar sands” here.

Petropolis – Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands (condensed) from Grimthorpe Film on Vimeo.

The House I Live In

by Nash Turley on November 15

“The War on Drugs is a Holocaust in slow motion”

Politicians only respond to the rich that fund their campaigns, in other words, the US is a plutocracy. We must solve this issue before making progress on any other progressive political issue. Lawrence Lessig explains:

National Security and Plutocracy

by Nash Turley on October 25

Obama’s campaign platforms and promises were drastically different than the actual policies enacted or continued during his presidency, and this has evoked many interpretations. He campaigned with promises of scaling back spying on US citizens, closing Guantanamo Bay, securing and reducing nuclear weapons around the world, and reducing military action abroad. But during his reign as president NSA spying has exploded, Guantanamo Bay remains open, nuclear arsenals are being rebuilt, and drone assassination programs, secret paramilitary operations, and large-scale military attacks have all continued or increased. In short, the Obama Administration has continued, or many cases escalated, all the national security policies of the Bush Administration. Why is this? Was he simply unable to enact the policies he promised? Was he lying?

Well, maybe, but Michael Glennon’s says, talking about his new book National Security and Double Government, that: “policy by and large in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions”, an unelected and unregulated sector of the government that determines and guides many of America’s policies with no transparency or accountability. If these “concealed institutions” are not listening to the three branches of government, who do they represent? This is an important question and I bet the book gets into this (I haven’t read it). However, the answer is most likely corporations that profit from war (e.g. arms manufacturers) and cheap labor and resources from developing countries. A government that lacks accountability will pander to those who have the most power, namely, corporate interests.

Messages of Peace

by Nash Turley on October 24

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Comparing calls for peace from Nobel Peace Prize laureates Malala Yousafzai and Barack Obama

“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.” Said Malala Yousafzai before the United Nations on, July 12th, 2013. It was her 16th birthday. One-year prior in Afghanistan she was targeted by the Taliban because of her activism in support of education and in opposition to terrorism and oppression. They boarded her school bus and shot her and her friends. Yousafzai survived being shot in the forehead. She does not seek revenge, does not call for arms against the man who shot her. “We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child” she said.

This month Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17, the youngest ever. Pushing away the idea of conflict as a solution to problems around the world, she stated, “Education is the only solution.” And she highlighted the importance of developed countries empowering girls and women around the world as an effective and necessary component to increasing global well-being and peace.

Yousafzai was a victim of brutal Taliban violence, and has spent the majority of her life in a region at war, but her message is that armed conflict will not bring long-term solutions to our conflicts—education will. She provides a voice for those who suffer the most from economic stagnation, oppression, and armed conflict: the women, children, and the poor who experience first hand that wars do not benefit them.

Another Nobel Prize winner, Barack Obama, presented a very different message, one of justifying the use of force in the name of national and global security. He started his acceptance speech in 2009 with an honest admission, “perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars.” Since 2009, this irony has swelled immensely as the US military under Obama has now bombed seven countries in the Middle East and has vastly expanded unregulated drone assassination programs and other paramilitary operations. There is little doubt that these aggressive actions have, and are, creating the fuel for continued armed conflict in the region. Yousafzai herself even met with Obama and told him she thought drone strikes are inciting terrorism.

Obama justified war in the typical ways, good versus evil, the United States as the sole global military power altruistically standing up to terrorists and rogue states around the world for humanitarian purposes. He boasts, “The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.” This certainly is the familiar narrative of American post-WWII foreign policy. But these justifications for intervention, and these stories of our empathetic motivations for war, are lies.

US foreign policy has, rather, consistently been guided to secure our own interests. To maintain hegemony over underdeveloped countries, allowing our corporations access to natural resources. Normally this means derailing social progress and the decreasing the wellbeing of the poor. “We’ve consistently opposed democracy if its results can’t be controlled. The problem with real democracies is that they’re likely to fall prey to the heresy that governments should respond to the needs of their own population, instead of those of US investors,” Noam Chomsky says about US foreign policy.

Continuing with the fallacy of American exceptionalism, Obama states: “America–in fact, no nation–can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves,” implying that the US does follow rules when it comes to foreign interventions and human rights. Not so. He continues: “America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens.” These are lies. Take for example the actions of the CIA that have a long history of undermining and overthrowing progressive or democratically elected leaders and installing brutally violent and oppressive dictators friendly to American corporations.

Discussion of war and peace in the world must deal with complex realities and not settle on overly simplistic platitudes. Yousafzai’s messages for peace calls for social reform in general terms, highlighting the necessity of revolutionary changes for education and economic equality. “I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation” she said. A bold and ambitious message in a world dominated by capitalism. Obama deserves some credit for being honest about the serious challenges that face future prospects of peace: economic and social development, education, climate change, and the low probability that we will ever see a world free of war. But Obama’s arguments supporting and justifying America’s forceful foreign policy are fallacious and hypocritical. Therefore his attempt to justify war as an act of peace is better interpreted as Pro-American propaganda.

We must confront messages of peace with two questions: 1. whose voice is being represented? And, 2. does their message correspond with their actions? Yousafzai provides a powerful voice to a silenced majority, the girls, the women, and the poor who always suffer the most from war, and she acts to empower and improve the wellbeing of the people she represents. It is more obscure whom Obama is representing in his messages. But he reinforces the neoliberal dogma of America’s place in the world, a rouge superpower that acts with impunity, for its own benefit. This ideology represents the interests of the elite, the corporations that grow their profits at the expense of the poor. And Obama’s actions, the continuation of America’s forceful hegemony and military interventionism, does not promote peace; in fact, quite the opposite.

We need to hear true voices for peace. And we need the passion and the courage to turn their messages into action. Yousafzai may not have the political power or experience to address the complexity of sociopolitical solutions needed to build towards a global peace. But her messages and her actions are motivated by empathy, and a sincere desire to increase the wellbeing of those suffering most. These are the voices and the actions than can bring peace. Obama’s words and actions, rather, embody the status quo of the elite’s forceful domination and exploitation of the poor. We need accurate information and education in the developed world as much as we need it in the developing world, because this, and only this, will give the powerless and the voiceless the tools to be heard. If the citizens of the US, and other developed countries, demanded that the trillions of dollars used by their governments to wage war on developing countries were rather used to feed and educate their populations, then we could be moving towards peace.

Malala Yousafzai image credit: Claude Truong-Ngoc, distributed under CC-BY-SA-3.0 license 

Barack Obama image credit: The Obama-Biden Transition Project, distributed under CC-BY-3.0 license

Attacking the Dissidents Music Video

by Nash Turley on October 20

Malala Yousafzai Interview

by Nash Turley on October 11

Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai spoke with Jon Stewart last year and said:

But later I started thinking and I used to think that the Talib would come and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want’

Watch the full interview:

Endless American Wars

by Nash Turley on October 7

Glenn Greenwald makes clear that endless war is the official policy by US politicians. The war on terror is planned to continue indefinitely without geographic boundaries, why? Because weapons manufactures make immense profit off international conflicts and, as Greenwald says:

A state of endless war justifies ever-increasing state power and secrecy and a further erosion of rights

And why is there always a new enemy to fight? Because our actions in the world create the conflicts and radicals that are used to justify more aggression. Greenwald states:

The great contradiction of American foreign policy is that the very actions endlessly rationalized as necessary for combating Terrorism — invading, occupying and bombing other countries, limitless interference in the Muslim world, unconditional support for Israeli aggression, vast civil liberties abridgments such as torture, renditions, due-process-free imprisonments — are the very actions that fuel the anti-American hatred which, as the U.S. Government itself has long recognized, is what causes, fuels and exacerbates the Terrorism we’re ostensibly attempting to address.

It’s really quite simple: if we continue to bring violence to that part of the world, then that part of the world — and those who sympathize with it — will continue to want to bring violence to the U.S.

And how else are these aggressive acts of war justified and sold to the American public? Well, “humanitarianism” is always a justification for aggression, but is always a pretense not a purpose. See this panel discussion on topic of humanitarian intervention:

Live at the Blue Moon, Seattle, WA.
24 August, 2014.
Shot by Amy Huber.

Maplight. More information here

Live Show!

by Nash Turley on August 19

We are playing live this sunday (24th Aug) at the legendary Blue Moon in Seattle. Facebook event.

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Photo by Christopher L. Martin.