Gaza Casualties Speak Volumes

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It’s that tragic time of year again when the Gaza Strip erupts into flames once more, and the usual suspects are quick to paint the tragic and complex issue with the black-and-white brush of their own agenda. And of all those metaphorical brushstrokes, the numbering of casualties on each side is the most revealing. In more ways than intended.

This year the popular propagandistic narrative is that of an evil, genocidal juggernaut of an Israel against a poor, downtrodden Palestinian people, like cattle before the slaughter. According to this fable there are only two sides, two groups, in the conflict. Every act of destruction falls on the conscience of every last person in Israel’s territory, and every dead body on the other end of the border is an innocent child.

Back to reality. There are, in fact, four main groups at play here: the people of Israel, the people of Palestine, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Hamas. The first two groups are simply trying to mind their own lives, and scurry for cover whenever the bombs start to fly. The other two are military groups, ostensibly charged with the safety of their corresponding civilian population. In reality, as in all wars, all this amounts to more death and destruction than protection.

Notice that key word: war. This isn’t a one-sided aggression here; it’s a two-sided armed conflict. Two organized forces are lobbing explosives at each other, with civilians caught in the crossfire. Omit all mention of one of these two sides, and the conflict ceases to make sense. It starts to look like a vicious, genocidal Israeli force is senselessly intent on pounding Gaza into the sand. And while that narrative is very useful for purposes of anti-Israel propaganda, it is not even remotely grounded in reality.

Now about those oft-quoted casualty figures, which show far fewer lives lost on the Israeli side. Using the two-group fantasy scenario, it seems like a brutal massacre of the Palestinian people. Using the four-group reality where you have two armed forces supposedly championing the safety of their respective civilian populations, a different truth comes into focus: the Israeli Defense Forces are much better at protecting their civilians. IDF members are clearly identifiable via uniforms, quickly sweep friendly noncombatants off to safety, and take the fight as far away from those in their care as possible. They even make overtures and attempts to minimize civilian casualties on the other side. Hamas members, on the other side of the equation, are often indistinguishable from civilians, fire into civilian populations, operate out of civilian areas, and make no perceivable effort to reduce the instances of death and injury on the Palestinian side, let alone the Israeli camp. When it comes to protecting its own people, the IDF handily outclasses Hamas.

There are great, complex issues at play that spark hostilities, with plenty of blame to spare on both sides of the border; and a continued effort to address these issues is necessary if we are to even dream of peace. However, when it comes to war, and condemnations thereof, we really have to be equitable in criticisms of both armed forces. Before blasting civilian casualties caused by Israel with any kind of honesty, we must demand Hamas wear clearly recognizable uniforms, target only military installations and personnel, and remove their forces from civilian populations, including sending their organized armed forces across the border to do battle in an area devoid of Palestinian noncombatants. At that point we can actually address grievances on both sides, and work towards true peace.

War is hell, and its agents are demons. We would do well to recognize all members of their ranks, and hold them all equally accountable.

I Am Bowe Bergdahl

When reading the story of American POW Bowe Bergdahl, I couldn’t help but think: that could’ve been me.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Activism vs. Slacktivism

occupy

 

“The winner in a political contest is determined by the number and the effectiveness of the activists on the respective sides.” -Morton Blackwell

Activism is a great way to effect social and political change. Unfortunately, it’s often confused with its lazy, ineffective, poser cousin: slacktivism.

Are folks struggling just to get by? Are the wars still going on? Is there an acute deficiency of low-carb bread at your local supermarket? Wrongs aren’t going to right themselves. Get some markers and some cardboard and take it to the streets!

With a couple of caveats. First, note the key element in the word “activism”: “active.” If the key to effecting social and political change involved inactively complaining about all of society’s ills, it would be called passivism. And while there is a place for us keyboard warriors to attempt to convince friends and family and debate the finer points of philosophy without cease, it’s no substitute for real activism. At some point you have to leave the house, engage with real people, and make your voice unforgettably heard.

Second, activism must be effective. You can go out and demonstrate everyday without fail and still fall short of your objectives. Simply communicating your views isn’t enough. You have to craft a focused message, word it in a concise, impactful way, and stay on target. You must find a public forum for your message where it will be heard to its maximum potential. You need media coverage of your activism that is positive and far-reaching. And, most important of all, you need to show up consistently, with sufficient numbers, in an organized fashion.

Activism is there on time without fail. Slacktivism shows up when it feels like it. Activism plans briefly before executing. Slacktivism is permanently stuck in the planning phase. Activism knows what it’s doing beforehand. Slacktivism haphazardly shows up and sees what will happen. Activism shows restraint in tone and scope of messaging. Slacktivism shouts and rambles without thought to the intended message getting through. Activism is an organized, well-oiled, effective machine. Slacktivism is chaos, equal parts laziness and lack of self-control.

Activism is professional. It’s work. It’s the real deal. Slacktivism is amateur and fake. What approach will you use to advance your cause?

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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The Ballad of Rich Paul

Rich Paul, legendary civil disobedience activist most known for his work in marijuana activism, tells his incredible story of inspiration, courage, and struggle.

A joint (no pun intended) production with the Rebel Love Show.

Government Only Understands Force

bundy grave

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” – Mao Tse Tung

Behind every eloquent speech, every lofty ideal, every claim of legitimate governance, there lies a wicked undercurrent of deadly force. Behind all resistance to the purportedly legitimate system there also lies a steely backbone. We saw that steel on full display at the Bundy Ranch.

The state realizes its edicts through force. Disobey a law and you’ll be fined. Refuse to pay the fine and you’ll be arrested. Resist arrest and you’ll be shot. It’s that simple. Upset enough people, though, and you’ll quickly find yourself facing down an angry mob the likes of which you can’t disperse. A government must therefore exert only as much coercive control as it can without provoking the entire populace to revolt. That’s the eternally delicate balance between man and state.

Some states, namely those with a disarmed populace, push the balance further than others. We saw that during the 20th century in communist countries as well as the Third Reich, where untold millions of innocents were rounded up and murdered by their governments. All because they didn’t have the means to defend themselves, to dissuade the state from carrying out the worst of its planned atrocities.

In the battle for Bundy Ranch, we saw both the armed and unarmed populace at play. Unarmed and defenseless were the cattle, and as such they were rounded up, massacred, and dumped into mass graves like so many innocent victims of the state before them. The human protesters, despite remaining peaceful and nonviolent, faced abuse as well.

Then they came back with guns. Now, armed federal agents had to face armed militia members. No more was it a case of simply beating up protesters and hoping it doesn’t look too bad on camera. It had become a real standoff with real risks. Firing on the militia members would have meant being fired upon themselves. It’s no surprise it ended in peace.

Ultimately, humans can be convinced to commit morally reprehensible acts upon their fellow man. Add personal risk to the mix, however, and you find that it’s far easier to convince people to end each other’s lives than it is to risk their own. Take that commentary on humanity as you will. The takeaway: Back up your peaceful actions with implied willingness to use forceful self-defense when necessary.

Peaceful warriors work through peaceful means. Fight through nonviolence. Use love, unity, and moral courage to defeat violence, coercion, and evil. But they keep their proverbial powder dry.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Bundy Ranch Woke Up Conservatives to Police Abuse

BLM

Before the recent incident at the Bundy ranch, it was easy for conservatives to ignore the issue of police abuse. Not anymore.

Police brutality in America has gone largely unnoticed by the general, unaffected public for years. There was a time when mentioning the issue to the average white American would draw nothing but blank stares. Ask black America, however, and you would be sure to get a much different picture. The Rodney King incident of the early 90s, where a savage beating by police was caught on film, woke the rest of society up to the violence that can take place when armed officers are given the right to the legitimate use of force and are left unwatched: they use said force illegitimately.

The Occupy movement brought to light once again the nasty propensity of those with power to use it for abusive purposes. Cop Block’s valiant efforts to bring light to police abuse further woke up libertarian and left-of-center groups. The missing element? Conservatives. The amount of sympathy for victims of police brutality from right-of-center is extremely lacking. Getting beaten on by police? Why are you breaking the law? Get a job and maybe you wouldn’t be up to no good. Why do you hate America, you damn hippie?

Until now. The Bundy Ranch incident flipped the whole cliche on its head. This time, it wasn’t hippies or ethnic minorities being beaten, tasered, and attacked by dogs. It was cowboys, rednecks, and other assorted middle-class conservative Caucasians.

It’s easy to dismiss the concerns of those different from us. People half a world away who look different, speak a different language, and hold different beliefs are easy to ignore and marginalize. Even citizens of the same country, even of the same ethnicity and language, can be mentally separated as different, and their suffering ignored. But when you see armed thugs abusing people who look like your mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, or close friend, disassociation becomes impossible. You must feel. You must see the violence of the system you used to rationalize. And you get angry.

Police abuse affects all of us. Now all of us know.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Do We Really Want Gender Equality?

Photo credit: Darren Kirby

Photo credit: Darren Kirby

Gender equality, and how to implement it in modern society, has been on people’s minds for several decades. We’re supposed to want it. I know I do. I can’t wait for the day when all humans enjoy equal rights to live their peaceful lives as they see fit, and can partake in a society that will allow them to do so without harassment.

I’m ready for gender equality. But how about the rest of us? Is society ready for more than just the parroted old feminist notions of a bygone era? For truly equal genders?

If so, we need to start granting paternity leave to new fathers. We need to make sure men are equally represented as cosmetologists, paralegals, executive assistants, botanists, and early childhood educators. We need to ensure men are able to secure scholarships to go to college, and seriously address the male unemployment crisis.

We need to ensure equal legal protection for both men and women. We need to stop moving to the other side of the street when encountering a man walking at night. We need to be blind to gender in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child custody. We need to address the human rights crisis of criminalizing males at hugely disproportionate rates. We need immediate action to stop the rape epidemic that affects men everywhere.

We need to end the war on men known as “rape culture,” which discriminates against an entire gender by treating them all as deviants and abusers. We need to ensure men are allowed to express their sexuality without judgment. We need a Penis Monologues. We need to remind overweight men that fat is beautiful, and end dating discrimination based on their weight. We need equal representation, and compensation, in prostitution, cheerleader teams, “breastaurants” like Hooters, and any profession that leverages sexual attractiveness as an integral part of the job.

Alternatively, instead of waging an all-consuming crusade to socially engineer away the different societal habits and placements into which men and women have naturally fallen, we can focus on equal rights. On ensuring that members of each gender are equally granted the freedom to peacefully live their lives as they desire. And then leave them be to carve their own destinies, no matter how similar or dissimilar they may be.

It’s time to decide if we as a society, as a culture, and as individuals, are truly ready for real gender equality. I know I am. Are you?

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Is U.S.-Russian Rivalry Only for Show?

putinbama

The United States and Russia put on a good display of being at each other’s throats. But what if that rivalry is nothing more than a show?

As I covered in my last article on the relationship between the Russian and U.S. Intelligence Services, it’s according to Intelligence that governments plan their negotiations and decide whether or not to put forth a plan for military deployment. This is a perfectly normal and sensible approach to foreign policy. However, the line is crossed at the point where Intelligence Services are used to create situations where deployment would seem viable, e.g. by manipulating intelligence and cooking up statistics.

Russian and U.S. foreign policy has been both very intimately and very discretely linked in the past few decades: wherever the U.S. deploys its troops, they find themselves faced with enemies armed with Russian weaponry and gear; and whenever Russia cracks down on former Soviet allies for insubordination, they very often find themselves facing rebels armed with supposedly stolen or smuggled U.S. weapons. At the same time, Russia often sends the U.S. warnings when it is about to launch an attack in the Middle East, and threatens to stay out of the conflict and leave the U.S. to their own devices (for example the deployments in Syria and Iraq), while the U.S. calls Russia on what it calls infringements of human rights and impingements on the sovereignty of its neighbors. And yet, neither ever actually personally intervenes in the other’s affairs!

In the past 30 or so years, Russia and the U.S. have very clearly avoided direct confrontation. Some might say that this is out of fear that a third World War might break out, and they would probably be right with regards to the original reasoning behind it all. However, in the past decade or so, it seems as though the two superpowers are just maintaining appearances while allowing each other to pursue their goals.

The underlying question is this: Why would two former rivals allow each other to gain in strength and influence? Surely, it would be in their interest to keep their opponent from getting stronger, thereby securing their own position as the world’s superpower. One possible conclusion is that they have a common interest in keeping everyone else out of the game. While one uses their power and influence to keep a rising force from becoming an actual threat (either by crushing them through deployment or by bringing them under their influence and control) the other underhandedly fuels the opposing side’s war effort and gains commercially. This would explain how small resistance groups and guerrillas end up well enough equipped to put up a significant enough fight for a prolonged war effort to be maintained. And nothing fuels a state’s economy like war.

At the same time, rivals remain rivals, and while their interests might coincide both sides, they have very distinct plans that are unique to them. And these most certainly include plans to gain an advantage over the other. Perhaps it’s a case of keep your friends close and your enemies even closer?

ASqrminiAlon Starkman, a reserve non-commissioned officer for the Swiss military, is a contributor to The Desert Lynx.

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The Walking Dead vs. the State

Photo credit: Roland Molnár

Photo credit: Roland Molnár

***SPOILER ALERT: Please, do not read any further if you have not completed watching the entirety, including the season finale, of Season 4 of the AMC television show The Walking Dead and you don’t want anything spoiled for you.***

The Walking Dead TV series, in its first four seasons, has developed an increasingly dreadful and serious tone combined with gripping action and drama, garnering more attention than any show currently on air. But there is much more beneath the horror sci-fi apocalyptic setting itself. The content and message of the show contains a clear allegory to present day reality that bear deep philosophical implications.

For starters, Rick and his group spend the first half of the season attempting to successfully live as a peaceful family of farmers that seem to simultaneously suffer in an unrelenting environment of horrifying violence, forced to defend themselves by any means necessary from a plague of death. Still, the protagonists enjoy momentary prosperity by both respecting individual property rights and behaving communally. As a unit, they are righteous folk who live as they believe is good.

Rick and his people are also tragically under constant siege, not only by undead monsters, but various living human fiends. These immoral people represent the state. They initiate countless threats against our innocent friends. They assault, pillage, betray, and hold hostage. They are the illegitimate government (redundant though that phrase may be).

First, take the vile Governor (a character literally identified by name as the government), who starts a bloody turf war over the farm. Our protagonists offer peace and coexistence, but the Governor instead chooses to invade the territory after killing Hershel and many of his own. Then, after Rick and his friends are split apart by the conflict, we meet a gang of disgusting, thuggish criminals, one of whom attempts to rape Carl, a relatively defenseless young boy. These men purport to abide by a code of justice, but they are really just brutes that murder and deceive both hapless victims and each other. And finally, the finale unveils a new enemy, the cultish, possibly-cannibalistic, totalitarian regime that occupies Terminus. It has lured the protagonists and who knows how many others into its trap, falsely promising sanctuary, and now has taken the group captive.

This season was finely crafted and executed in an artistically, visually, and emotionally raw way. Now we are faced with a situation in which the only hope for our friends to survive will be for one of three things to happen: 1) the Terminus state to ALL be killed or disarmed, 2) the Terminus state to completely withdraw its threats, return all weapons and stolen property, and let Rick and his people go, or 3) for Rick and his people to forfeit their freedom and suffer their own enslavement.

True, The Walking Dead is far from reality in that it is a science fiction horror show about the undead apocalypse, but an important supporting element of the horror is a psychological one. What could be more frightening than to consider that the pain and injustice inflicted by those who wrongfully claim authority, as depicted in the show, is actually something that we experience today?

MDqrminiMiguel Duque is a contributor to The Desert Lynx.

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The Desert Lynx Joins the Rebel Love Show

The Desert Lynx joins forces with the Voluntaryist Rebel to create the Rebel Love Show, a new show documenting the march of freedom in New Hampshire.

A Voluntary World

voluntary

The most significant development in recent memory isn’t the computer. It isn’t the smartphone. It isn’t even the internet, though it would never have been able to succeed to this level without the web.

I’m talking about consent. No, not the so-called consent of the governed, which equates to government whether you like it or not, with a little voting apparatus thrown in there to keep you happy. I’m talking about a voluntary world.

The world is changing in profound, significant ways. The people are waking up from the illusion that they are represented by their government. Bitcoin, a currency created without any government involvement or blessing whatsoever, continues its shakily persistent march towards integration into the economy. Even policing, something that even some staunch anti-government types will agree is something the state needs to provide, is being done privately. Voluntarily. Much better even, as the police state continues its transition from cautious ally to full-on predator. The involuntary world is slowly, but surely, eroding.

I’m not saying anarchy is the answer to all our problems, because it isn’t. It’s the precondition that allows for voluntary solutions to the world’s problems to fully take root. Though, from the way things are looking, the voluntary world is growing faster than the involuntary world can recede. We may never see the government as we know it collapse into a pile of burning rubble. Instead we will probably see it become less and less relevant to the day-to-day operations of society, until one day we look at the empty shell of the state and collectively ask “Do we still need that old thing?” before removing it completely.

Prepare to challenge your notions of what is and isn’t possible. Prepare to let go of the vestiges of our dark and barbaric past. Prepare to forget everything you thought you knew about how the world has to work. The voluntary world is coming.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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Agorist cab service succeeds thanks to Bitcoin

No job. A Prius. And the will to succeed. For Riaz, the owner of Agora Cab, a Manchester, New Hampshire-based ride service, that was enough to become one of the city’s hottest new businesses.

In between jobs, Riaz began offering rides to friends for cash. Before long, word of mouth grew this side-gig into a full-fledged business. Day or night, wherever you are, you can always count on Agora Cab to give you a ride for well below market rates.

And the best part? You can pay in Bitcoin. In fact, a good chunk of Riaz’s business comes from the digital cryptocurrency.

If Agora Cab’s success teaches us anything, it’s that anyone can create opportunity. All it takes is an entrepreneurial spirit, a conducive environment like New Hampshire, and no one to stop you.

Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

Dissent of the Governed

Photo credit: Elvert Barnes

Photo credit: Elvert Barnes

Is government legitimate?

The most recent results of an annual Rasmussen poll indicate that only 21% of Americans believe that their government has the consent of the governed. That result, with whatever weight it carries, suggests that a whopping 79% are not even positive that this government is legitimate.

This shouldn’t come to much surprise considering the state’s inflating track record of abuse and brutality. Take, for example, how it has sought to force millions of us, at the threat of escalated theft and violence, to purchase the health care plans of the equally-corrupt corporations that use government privilege to pillage and destroy the free market. Take the enormity of the so-called justice system which serves no purpose other than to wage war both against competing criminal firms and against completely innocent people whom they kidnap and hold for ransom. Take the notion that the state now spies on every single electronic communication of everyone in the world at every second of the day. Take the nightmarish reality that we’ve handed the power to eradicate the entire planet in an instant to complete psychopaths. We are witnessing police state, security state, welfare and warfare state fully unveil itself as a monstrous beast from hell.

There can be no consent where it can’t be withdrawn. The government in America, along with every other government in the history of the world, derive their authority from the barrel of a gun. They neither stand nor have they ever stood for justice or liberty or equality or any other naively-accepted falsehood virtue that a state often purports to uphold. Yet they have grown so powerful and greedy and thirsty for blood.

And still people are rising up and emancipating themselves from mental slavery. Just as the days of chattel slavery have all but seen their end, so shall the days of statism. All it will take is the individual integrity to remove violent, coercive, or aggressive behavior from our personal lives, to refuse to condone it or remain complicit in it any further.

The people are waking up to the illegitimacy of the state. Stay vigilant and hold out hope, friends. These are trying times, but peace is just beyond the horizon.

Miguel Duque, a contributor to The Desert Lynx, is a former political junkie and professional activist.

Did the Cold War ever really end?

cold war

The Cold War, the epic global military standoff between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, ended decades ago. Everyone knows that.

Well, what if I were to tell you that, beneath the surface, the Cold War is in fact still in full effect?

The Cold War of espionage and intelligence gathering that followed the end of the 2nd World War and the 3rd Reich was a grim time for international relations, a time where governments were at each other’s throats and where spies lurked behind every dark corner. As the story goes, the Cold War ended with the fall of Stalin’s Soviet regime and the tearing down of the Berlin wall. But what if the Cold War had in fact gone even further underground, only to resurface at a time where it could be once more legitimately justified?

Russia resumed its infamous intelligence activities since Putin’s rise to power at the end of the 90′s. But while it’s true that Russian intelligence thrived under Putin, the KGB never truly stopped its activities in the intermittent time; it all simply became increasingly obscure and discrete.

A little backstory: Even after the fall of the Soviet bloc and throughout Russia’s decline from its former power and glory, the secret services remained an integral and vital part of the Russian political structure. Regional politicians relied on KGB officers and operatives to ensure their elections by making use of their intelligence networks and the information they provided. The system in place created a symbiosis between the KGB and the key political players of the time, making sure that the “right people” got elected, and that they were backed by KGB, and in return the KGB maintained a strong grip on Russian politics and became a driving power behind the government. The service was later renamed FSB (Federal Security Service), and its systematic approach to manipulation and monitoring was used to create a well oiled and strictly regimented system that pervades every layer of Russian society. From the people on the street to the politicians and even the religious leaders (yes, even the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church was for a time, and might still be, a KGB agent) Putin’s FSB reaches right across the world; few other secret services can claim to rival it.

On the other side of the world, the US intelligence services pretended to calm down, the war of espionage against Russia unnecessary now that the Soviets Union had collapsed onto itself and democracy had come to the East. However, the CIA continued to research and invest into means to monitor and control the population. Social and Scientific experiments were carried out on Veterans and Civilians alike to test the possible applications of new discoveries in psychology, psychiatry, and chemistry as means of extracting information and controlling individuals.

Among the projects that have been leaked from the CIA archives are: Operation Paperclip, a program to recruit former Nazi Scientists in order to exploit their knowledge of brainwashing and torture; and Project MK Ultra, which involved the use of cover organisations such as prisons and hospitals to experiment on the effects of psychotropic substances and their possible applications as truth serums with civilians as test subjects.

At the same time, one of the first and most prominent scandals in the history of US intelligence and monitoring came out: the Watergate Scandal. While this might have been one of the first instances where phone tapping and privacy invasion was attributed to the US intelligence services, the system was functional and operational, lending to the notion that this was likely something that had been ongoing for quite a while beforehand.

After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the need to monitor external threats became a reality once more. The US government issued decree after decree giving increasing power and liberties to the intelligence services, purportedly to keep the nation safe from enemies who might be planning further attacks, or who might have already infiltrated the US. With the eyes of the West turned towards the conflicts going on in the Middle East, the US intelligence services further developed their networks and systems to form what was later revealed as the NSA.

Today, the two former superpowers of espionage and intelligence are back on the top of their game. As more and more conflicts crop up, their reach edges closer to each other. Russia, despite its thinly veiled attempts to remain neutral in recent conflicts, has its roots deeply planted in the northern regions of the Middle East, most specifically in Syria and Iran whom it sponsors without directly declaring its support. Russia knows that while the governments might topple, they cannot afford to loosen their control on the region.

All the while, the US extends it influence towards Western Europe, tightening its grip on the Intelligence Services of the UK, to the point of coming close to using them to monitor the members of the UN Security Council in the lead up to the decision whether or not to deploy in Iraq. At the same time, they use political and economical threats to gather information on civilians. A prime example of this is their persistent attacks on the Swiss banking system, and their all but successful attempts at tearing down the notion of banking secrecy.

All this influence, power, and control over information forms a vice-like grip that extends from one end of the world clean across to the other, with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa caught in the middle. Just like during the Cold War. What will happen when the grip closes shut? Only time will tell.

ASqrminiAlon Starkman, a reserve non-commissioned officer for the Swiss military, is a contributor to The Desert Lynx.

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“Right to Discriminate” Helps Gay Rights

rainbow-248294_640

Is bigotry on the rise? It would seem so from Arizona’s recent ill-fated bill to allow businesses to discriminate against homosexuals if they cite religious beliefs. Is social progress and tolerance slipping?

Not at all. Aside from the fact that the vetoed law wouldn’t have had much effect anyway, developments such as this are actually a long-term boon for gay rights. No, I’m not kidding. Here’s why:

Historically, homosexuals in America have faced legal discrimination accompanying social marginalization. Now, the situation is quite different, with a growing majority supporting equal marriage rights for gay couples. Unfortunately, the government didn’t get the memo. Only 17 of the 50 United States legally recognize gay marriage. Worse still, 13 states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books. For the most part they haven’t
been enforced in a very long time, but they’re still there in case some over-zealous state-level officer of the law gets some funny ideas. While across the board the American people are ready to decriminalize, if not wholeheartedly accept, homosexual relations, the current legal structure still leaves them oppressed.

The bottom line is, people are responsible for standing up for their own rights. People are responsible for standing up for the rights of others. People are also responsible for deciding who they associate with, who they do business with, and for dealing with the consequences of those decisions. And legislation, in addition to being a clumsy tool with unintended consequences, gives people a false sense of security and an excuse to do nothing. Real change starts with individual action and responsibility.

Don’t mourn when legal sanctions against bigotry threaten to disappear. Celebrate the thought of the government getting out of the morality business. They were terrible at it anyway.

Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

Martyred for Peace

Photo credit: Zach Dischner

Photo credit: Zach Dischner

We all talk about peace. About ending war. About making a difference for our fellow man. But would you walk the walk, even if you’re only walking into an early grave?

That’s what it cost Aitzaz Hassan. Aitzaz, may his soul rest in peace, was a brave 15-year-old boy who selflessly sacrificed himself to prevent a suicide bomber from detonating in his school, saving an estimated 1,000 classmates’ lives.

Since his heroic actions, photos of the boy have popped up all over the web: an overall unassuming boy, most likely not the most remarkable of his peers. And yet, the bud of a hero lay dormant inside this seemingly mild-mannered youth. So what does it take to be a hero? Some would say it takes guts, others might claim it takes self confidence, and others yet would say one must be mad to throw themselves at an assailant in someone else’s defense. Well, I would claim otherwise: that the workings of a hero can be found in anyone, and in fact everyone.

Aitzaz Hassan had something that many of us seem to have forgotten: love for his peers. This boy didn’t think of glory, or fame, or the affection of that one girl in class who makes his heart race (as most modern depictions of the hero would suggest). Aitzaz spotted a threat to his classmates, and knowing that if he didn’t react they would most certainly be in grave danger, he took it upon himself to act and intercepted the saboteur.

This boy’s heroic act must now serve as an example to us all, that we should not wait for others to take action and save the day. Because by the time someone else spots the threat, it might be too late to prevent the injury and even deaths of hundreds, or indeed thousands.

Moreover, it is our job to honor and live by this boy’s example, and make his story known. We must do the job that, for fear of repercussions from the group who organized the cowardly attack that cost this boy his life, the local media in Pakistan are hesitating to do. Perhaps by showing them that the world stands by Aitzaz, we could move the people of Pakistan to resist and root out the cancer of terrorism from their country, so that they need not live in fear of being targeted by violent extremists.

And Aiztaz’s family is proud of their boy, saying “Many people are coming to see [us], but if they try to express sympathy, [we] tell them to congratulate [us] instead on becoming the [family] of a martyr.” Those words are infinitely moving. It is encouraging and beautiful that in a Muslim world where the majority of those who are hailed as “martyrs” and “heroes” are murderers and terrorists, there are still people who understand the true meaning and weight behind the title. That there are people who honor what it means to sacrifice one’s self for the good of society, and for the good of mankind as a whole, to selflessly defend their fellow man from the attacks of cowards and fear mongers. Such are true martyrs, people like Aitzaz Hassan, who know the value of human life and who would fight tooth and nail to defend its sanctity.

We’ve condemned martyrs for hatred and war long enough. It’s time to uplift martyrs for love and peace.

Alon Starkman, a reserve non-commissioned officer for the Swiss military, is a contributor to The Desert Lynx

First car bought with Bitcoin in New Hampshire

New Hampshire history was made when Robert Mathias and Darryl Perry, two Free State Project participants, engaged in the state’s first ever Bitcoin car purchase, further cementing the Free State as a haven of alternative, government-less economic activity.

Even better, the newly-christened “bitmobile” sports vanity plates reading “BITCOIN” as a constant reminder of what can be done without involving government currency whatsoever.

It’s a new age where anything is possible. Money and efficient transactions without government or banks? You’d better believe it.

Bitcoin Is the People’s Currency

Photo credit: Isoviki

Photo credit: Isoviki

Bitcoin, everyone’s favorite online cryptocurrency, has taken the world by storm. It’s easy and practically free to use, almost instantaneous, doesn’t lose its value to inflation like government-controlled currencies, and has a healthy degree of privacy and anonymity.

Best of all, Bitcoin makes agorism (economic activity deliberately outside of state control) laughably easy. To illustrate this point, I lived for a week in Manchester, New Hampshire, spending Bitcoin every day. What I found was that a small group of people can already live outside the government controlled economy, even without a large, established infrastructure of participating businesses.

Over my seven days on Bitcoin I paid for numerous meals, went clothes shopping, bought coffee, got a taxi ride, tipped a server at a private club, and donated to charity. The best part? Only twice (the clothes shopping via a Gyft gift card and coffee at the Pão Café) did I use an established, official business. All the rest were transactions between individuals, made possible by a network of willing participants and the incredible ease of sending exact amounts Bitcoin instantly, to anyone, at no cost.

With Bitcoin, anyone can be an entrepreneur. Anyone can provide a service, accept compensation from anywhere in the world, pay employees, all in a matter of minutes at virtually no cost. Barriers to entry into the business world are reduced to almost zero. If this isn’t a wonderful way to provide everyday folks with an easy path to a better life, I don’t know what is.

And where is the Bitcoin economy really taking off? Surprise, surprise: New Hampshire. It should shock no one that the low-tax, business-friendly Granite State is fertile ground for innovative economic undertakings, registering more than twice the Bitcoin businesses on CoinMap.org than Massachusetts to the south, despite having less than one fifth the population. Factor in a world-class weekly Bitcoin meetup in Manchester and you have a recipe for a cutting-edge, decentralized, ground-up small business climate the envy of the free world.

We don’t need banks. We don’t need payment processors. We don’t need worthless paper money enforced by government decree. We have Bitcoin, and with it, a shot at a truly free economy. And not just for the lucky few. For everyone. Power to the people!

Joël Valenzuela, a mover to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project, is the editor of The Desert Lynx

How We Can Do Without Police

Photo credit: Chris Huggins

Photo credit: Chris Huggins

The cops are out of control. So much so that some of us are dreaming of a post-police world. Well, there’s no more need to dream. Wake up. It’s happening right before our eyes. And it’s about time. The police have gotten so far away from their purported role of protecting the people that more often than not they have ended up doing the exact opposite.

The tragic case of Marlene Tapia provides a perfect deconstruction of everything that’s wrong with today’s police state. First, Tapia was detained on suspicion of possessing narcotics. Never mind that she wasn’t hurting anyone, or that said narcotics were intended to make her, or someone someone else, happy, even if only temporarily. The officer involved was protecting or helping absolutely no one. Next, Tapia was strip-searched, a gross and forceful violation of her privacy and person. Again, such a procedure protects no one and only comes into play because of the aforementioned substance restriction. Finally, upon noticing evidence of a concealed substance protruding from Tapia’s body, the officer sprayed her genitals with mace, serving absolutely no purpose other than to cause her pain and humiliation.

What’s the worst part of this story? That everything the officer did except for the macing was standard procedure? That the officer had been “disciplined” for her torturous action, yet remained on staff? Or that millions of us involuntarily pay for an armed force to visit violence and aggression upon us?

How can we get the police to start working for us again? By making them private. Now I know you’re thinking this is just another libertarian fantasy. It isn’t. It’s real. And where is it happening? In the land of government failure: Detroit.

Yes, we’re talking about private citizens picking up the slack left by police incompetence. But we’re also talking about something even better: the Threat Management Center. This Detroit-based business has effectively filled the protection void left by law enforcement. But it gets even better. The Threat Management Center’s sole priorities are the protection of the people under their charge. They have specific incentives to focus exclusively on safety, and find non-violent ways of defusing tense situations before resorting to force. Since they’re privately funded, they have a direct incentive to make their customers happy. Any form of misconduct can instantly result in a loss of funding.

The best part? The Threat Management Center doesn’t exclusively protect paying customers. Yes, they protect people for free. They are able to do that because their profit margins are high enough. You heard that right: the evil, capitalistic word pairing “profit margin” working for the protection of the poor and weak for free. Their track record? Twenty years without a single court date, fallen officer, or fallen victim; a two-decade perfect score. All the while competing with government police, and outclassing them handily. Somewhere, a socialist is softly weeping.

Even some of the staunchest liberty advocates see a minimal role of government. Courts, justice system, law enforcement, national defense… all part of the proper, necessarily evil of the state. We at least need government police… right?

Apparently not. Score one for a peaceful, voluntary world.

The Burning Chasm

chasm

There’s a hole inside the heart, deeper than any a bullet can make; a never-ending chasm of longing that stays with you all of your days.

When it appeared is anyone’s guess. Maybe your mommy never loved you enough. Maybe your brain turned out a little different from everyone else’s. Or maybe it grew with you in the womb. That’s probably it… nothing else makes any damn sense.

As a kid it never bothered anyone. Your parents thought it was a phase, a momentary bout of childish difficulty. You thought it was just part of life. Until you noticed no one else was like that. Yeah, that phase you went through? It’s still there. You never really did get through it. You just started hiding it.

Phase two: the teenage years, when every bit of contrarian culture seems to be that missing answer. The angsty music, the brooding clothes, the tumultuous and exhausting relationships. That one time you found true love. It was over soon enough. Looking back it all seems silly and immature. So you dismissed that petty hole in your heart and grew up.

But guess what? That hole was still there. Except it turned into a chasm while you weren’t looking.

Now you have no time to deal with it. You’re trying to live a normal, serious, productive life. Get a good job, get married, have kids, the whole bliss package deal. Only that empty chasm won’t let you. Work fails to excite you, like it fails to excite the whole rest of the world. Only with you, the boredom’s fatal. Your mind’s found your perfect life partner, only your heart sabotages the whole operation. Can’t let go of the love of your youth. Which obviously wasn’t “the one,” but still somehow managed to fight that emptiness off like nothing before, and no one since. You’d like to forget and start anew. But that chasm won’t let you.

Next come the offerings. Phases, like being a teen again, only private and managed. Join a jam band. Write some poetry. Go to see the world. Throw all that at the chasm so you can “get over it” and continue on. Get it out of your system so you can be at peace, dammit.

But it doesn’t work. The chasm’s still there. Worse, it’s no longer content to merely sap your energy with distant longings. Now it burns. It demands to be fed. And don’t even try dismissal, or you will know agony.

Desperate, you analyze: What’s wrong with me? What deep-seated psychological issues do I have? What gave root to the chasm, and how can I pull it out by the roots? But that doesn’t work. All those roots turn out to be empty branches. The closer you get to the reason why, the more it appears to be just “because.” The more firmly you grasp at the root, the more you realize that you’re grasping your very soul.

What now? Live out a normal life on the outside, with a dead carcass of an inside, killed to stop the chasm from burning? Destroy the host and abandon torturous life altogether? Adopt an existence that placates the emptiness at every turn, hoping to find meaning and fulfillment someday?

Or surrender to the chasm? Dive in headfirst, consumed by its unquenchable fire? Become what the void longs for? Be careful. It is not of this world. It could destroy you as surely as if you took your own life. But what if it’s you? What if you aren’t of this world, only here for a brief time? What if you were sent to Earth with a mission, with that burning chasm built in so that you can never forget that you’re more than just flesh and blood?

After all, your life is but one short stay on this mortal plane. Maybe that burning chasm is just the voice of the real you, reminding your avatar to stay focused while you’re down there.

And so the chasm burns…