Peace without Justice in Syria

The end of last month witnessed the capture of Jawbar, Zamalka, Irbin, and Hirista suburbs in Damascus from the opposition to the Syrian regime [1], as the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army captured the city of Afrin and most of the surrounding province from the Kurdish People's Protection Units and Syrian Democratic Forces [2]. From here, the upcoming actions are almost predictable. The regime will move against the rebel enclave of Duma, the Turkish Free Syrian Army will target Manij. In each of these actions the promises of the Syrian revolution will fade even further from the promises and hopes of activists and demonstrators seven years ago, although the lessons will never be forgotten. From a population of some 17 million (2014), approximately half a million have been killed, and another five million have become international refugees.

The map of Syria is being redrawn to suit the powers of other states. Once but a close ally, the Syrian government is now in reality entirely dependent on Russia and to an extent Iran. For their rebel-held areas of northern Syria, Idlib, and west Aleppo, they are increasingly under the control of Turkey, which now has observation posts deep in the region, including Surman, Tell Tuqan, Al Eis, Anak, and at the time this is being written Khan Shaykhun, and Chab Plain. The Kurdish People's Protection Units and the Syrian Democratic Forces are understandably nervous, following the possibility of a U.S. military withdrawal [3], an astoundingly weak move. Although Rojava does enjoy popular support throughout other democratic governments, and the possibility of other NATO powers stepping in is high; France has already made an announcement to that effect [4]. The prospect of conflict between NATO powers should give Turkey cause for caution.

Martin Luther King's Other Dream : End Poverty Now

This day, fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jnr was assassinated. He has become most famous as a civil rights activist, who used civil disobedience and non-violent resistance, to end racial segregation. What is often overlooked is his desire to abolish poverty, both within and between nations, by the expedient method of a guaranteed minimum income.

Martin Luther King Jnr, like many before him, advocated a guaranteed annual income on the basis of justice. This is a good moral reason, inspired by both the rumbling discontent and misery by the impoverished, and the empathy and humanity felt by the well-off who witness the visceral suffering of their fellow human beings.

"Now one of the answers it seems to me, is a guaranteed annual income, a guaranteed minimum income for all people, and for all families of our country. [crowd applause] It seems to me that the Civil Rights movement must now begin to organize for the guaranteed annual income."
-- Martin Luther King Jnr, "The Other America Speech", Stanford University, April 14, 1967

Ronald Reagan Was the Worst President

Ronald Reagan, the favorite President of conservatives everywhere, is representative of the economic policies that have ruined America. I must admit that the title is an exaggeration. The worst President, by far, was Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump's favorite President, who committed unspeakable atrocities against Native Americans, as well as having terrible economic policies. In reality, Ronald Reagan is merely representative of what a bad President is. The Reaganomics-style conservative economic policies that have devastated the American economy really started in the mid-1970s under Richard Nixon. Reagan only serves as a stand-in to represent every conservative President and advocate of trickle-down economics. Today, conservatives are merely pushing a more radical and politically incorrect version of Reaganomics. I'm only going to mention a few points to establish that Reagan was morally despicable, then I will focus more on the science of economics and how conservatism leads to stagnating wages, high unemployment, and economic instability.

Thomas Hobbes' Pseudo-Libertarian Fascism

I am currently reading the works of Thomas Hobbes. Well, I've come to conclude that Thomas Hobbes is kind of a terrible person, and also dreadfully self-contradictory.

Hobbes starts from a pretty rational and libertarian foundation, but then goes astray quite quickly. In De Homine, Hobbes starts with a theory of ethics that I mostly agree with.

"The common nature of all things that are desired, insofar as they are desired, is good; and for all things we shun, evil. Therefore Aristotle hath well defined good as that which all men desire.... Therefore good and evil are correlated with desiring and shunning. There can be a common good, and it can rightly be said of something, it is commonly a good, that is, useful to many, or good for the state....
"Moreover, the greatest of goods for each is his own preservation. For nature is so arranged that all desire good for themselves. Insofar as it is within their capacities, it is necessary to desire life, health, and further, insofar as it can be done, security of future time."—Thomas Hobbes (De Homine, Ch. 11)

Ending Homicide and the Right to Arms

It would seem now that every few months there is a mass murder outbreak within the country most famous for a "right to bear arms". Indeed, the rate of mass shootings is accelerating[1], and they are becoming deadlier. The conflict of interests has been brought again to public debate with the recent Stoneman Douglas High School shooting [2], where the U.S. president, Donald Trump, offered his prayers and condolences, ordered flags be flown at half-staff, and then suggested arming teachers as a deterrent [3]. In contrast student survivors have demanded stricter gun controls [4], a position rejected by pro-gun activists as being ineffectual at best and dangerous at worst insofar it provides opportunities for armed homicide. The question of who is correct in this matter is an empirical one whereas, the question of what alternatives can be feasibly be implemented, is a political one.

Several seemingly obvious statements need to be made, at least in part because the arguments are often raised in the debate. The gun is not the only deadly technology available, and a determined person can, of course, carry out a homicide through other means. But the availability of a deadly ranged technology does make it easier. Ceteris paribus, because humans are imperferct, the greater the quantity of guns, the more opportunities there are for deliberate misuse or mishap; in a tragically prescient article the New York Times [5] pointed out that the United States and Yemen (which is the midst of a civil war) are two exceptional countries which both have a high number of guns per capita and mass shooting per capita. Likewise it should be unsurprising to discover that restrictions on firearms (e.g., restricted purchase, storage requirements) result in less firearm injuries, intentional or otherwise [6]. The latter point is important - gun suicides far exceed gun homicides and given that suicides are surprisingly a split-moment decision, an easy means to perform such an act correlates with the event [7].

The Genealogy of Liberty: Positive Liberty, Negative Liberty, and Republican Liberty

"To raise the question, what is freedom? seems to be a hopeless enterprise. It is as though age-old contradictions and antinomies were lying in wait to force the mind into dilemmas of logical impossibility so that, depending which horn of the dilemma you are holding on to, it becomes as impossible to conceive of freedom or its opposite as it is to realize the notion of a square circle.”—Hannah Arendt (What Is Freedom?)

The word liberty has a long and complicated genealogy. The first written reference to the concept of freedom is in the form of a cuneiform inscription of the Sumerian word ama-gi. The term, which means freedom, literally translates as "returning to mother," indicating the release of a person from debt slavery or the freeing of one from an obligation or debt. Liberty came to mean freedom from debt and legal obligations. Over time, the term liberty has come to mean different things in different contexts.

The life of Amputees in Syria

The life of Amputees in Syria
Written By : Om Amran
Interview and Edited by: Joanne Roberts

In 2014 the Syrian Network for Human Rights stated that no less than 1.1 million people have been injured in Syria since March 2011. At least 45% of them are women and children, and 10 – 15% of these cases have turned into permanent disability or amputations.

Today we speak with a Syrian lady Om Amran who has witnessed firsthand the effects of these disabilities and amputations on her own people and their children and what their future holds.

She has seen the effects on the households of Syria. She has seen the effects on the working men of the family and the husbands to many. She has seen the effects on the women who are trying to care for the house and their children. She has seen the effects on the innocent children and
babies. She has also seen the effects on the one million Syrian orphans and the approximate 6 million IDP's.

Below is a list of 10 questions I put to her:-

When Taxation is Not Theft

Anarchists and libertarians are fond of asserting that "taxation is theft." However, I am of the conviction that only some forms of taxation constitute theft. A person is entitled to the product of their own labor, not to positive externalities generated by other people's labor. Not only are some forms of taxation not theft, but some taxes may be good in themselves.

Land Value Taxes

In a state of nature, there are no systems of property. There are no monetary systems, nor courts and police to enforce contracts. With the introduction of government (courts, law-enforcement, monetary systems), we get money and feudalistic/capitalistic property arrangements and we see the opportunity arise for one person to profit off of the labor of another. In a state of nature, any person can homestead any vacant piece of land, build upon it, plant and harvest crops upon it, and raise livestock thereon. With the emergence of "property rights" (really a set of legal privileges conferred by government), we see that things change significantly. Now, one person has the ability to monopolize land and charge another person for use. Previously, land-ownership was basically a matter of fact: I occupy this land and use it. Now, land-ownership is linked to a legal document or "title." This allows one person to own land that another person is using. We see the rise of rent, where one person taxes another person for the use of land. The proprietor is effectively a little monarch or king. The little monarchy of the private proprietor is predicated on the bigger monarchy of the king. It was the government that created this system of property which allowed the private-owners to monopolize land and tax others for its use.

Anarchy Means 'No Rulers'

No Rulers
Let's start with the one thing that we can all (apparently) agree on:

"Anarchy means no rulers"

What does this mean? Let's apply some straightforward reason and logic to this premise in order to extrapolate the depth of information encapsulated by those four words:

No rulers implies no one ruling over anyone else, which is a scenario termed "individual sovereignty", meaning everyone has exclusive control over their own self. This in turn implies that no one can wield political power over anyone else. Political power is therefore fully decentralised, resulting in an equality of power. This doesn't mean that everyone is equally powerful per se, but simply that political power is evenly distributed throughout society. It intimates that no one possesses any special powers, entitlements, or exemptions that are not also afforded to everyone else. In this manner together we experience an equality of freedom. The same level of freedom is by default afforded to everyone. This is not absolute freedom; only a supreme tyrant can attain absolute freedom to do anything they want (within the confines of physics). Instead it is a level of freedom that does not mitigate anyone else from experiencing that same level of freedom. It is optimal freedom for everyone.

It's A Wonderful Life

Born of the European mid-winter festivals, the countries of historic Christendom and those they colonised, will celebrate the very nominal birth of their founder today. A large portion of those will engage in truly gluttonous levels of feasting and inebriation, and engage in the ritualised and comercialised exchange of mass produced gifts that carry a hefty price-tag, working on the selfish principle that charity begins at home. A few perhaps, in more private moments, may have thoughts of gratitude at their good fortune in life. But gratitude by itself is not enough; recognition of one's own beneficial circumstances is merely a metaphysical prayer unless combined with an altruistic resolve for transformative justice; the peace, security, and wealth of the few must become the same for the many. With such thoughts in mind, a survey of the sufferings of 2017 and their trajectory is an apt reminder.


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