Travis Thornton

Recent Posts From Travis Thornton

Crimea in Crisis: Ultimatums to Surrender

Over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin took steps to retain influence in Ukraine by gaining military control of the Crimean peninsula. As the pro-Russian government in Kiev gave way to Euromaidan protests, Putin had the following appeal approved by the Russian Parliament:

“In connection with the extraordinary situation that has developed in Ukraine and the threat to citizens of the Russian Federation… I hereby appeal to the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine until the social and political situation in that country is normalised.”

Making matters more ominous, the Russian military has issued ultimatums to Ukraine: surrender  - even Ukrainian warships in Crimea – or face “a military storm” by 9 PM EST today. How far will he go?

Let me start by saying, I don’t know what’s going to happen, and neither do any of the supposed experts I may cite herein. The purpose of this writing is to catch the reader up on developments, which are quickly unfolding. (Click here for a live blog of events)

Euromaidan Protests in Ukraine Turn Deadly

Halfway across the globe, a political protest known as Euromaidan continues into its twelfth week in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. As an emerging free market, Ukraine is a pivotal trade partner with the US, the EU, and Russia. As of this morning, 25 have been killed, and as the death count rises, the West tunes in.

Kiev

As a quick review, the public protest began late last November when more than 100,000 Ukrainians filled the streets of Kiev in response to President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of trade agreements with the European Union in favor of continued bailouts from Russia. As Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute, states:

“It is now apparent that Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovich, had no effective strategy to resist intense pressure against the EU deal from Moscow. The Kremlin promised big cash loans, a gas discount and debt forgiveness, while explicitly threatening to block Ukraine’s access to the Russian market and implicitly threatening to stoke separatism in regions of the country.”

For more on Euromaidan, click here for a more in-depth background, here for a livestream from Kiev, here for a liveblog of events, and here for photos of the riot taken yesterday.

MLK+50: Civil Liberties and the Civil Rights Movement

This weekend, being the 50 year anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom - the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s epic “I Have a Dream” speech – the National Action Network led a march of over 100,000 people, urging America to “Realize the Dream.” That Dr. King is the only non-President with a monument on the National Mall is a sign of his lasting legacy. He is truly a founding father in modern American history. On this anniversary, it is prudent to assess the progress of the Movement he led and to compare and contrast what he stood for then, its importance today, and where it’s going.

First off, just as an individual should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, the merit of a movement should not be judged by the human flaws of its leadership but by the principles for which it stands. Fifty years later, when it is assessed by those principles, it is clear there are signs of tremendous progress by the Civil Rights Movement. Most notably, in 2012, President Obama was reelected with much less attention paid to his race than his 2008 election. Culturally, we are much more racially egalitarian in our daily interactions. On the surface, race doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore.

On Libertarian Populism and the Liberty Movement

 Much is being made of this idea called ”Libertarian Populism” and its perceived value as a winning political strategy. The problem is, few seem to know what those words really mean. As such, a range of politicians and policies have incorrectly been grafted onto specific words that have specific meanings.

I’ve silently watched as this LibPop movement(?) has unfolded; see this litany of articles at this link roundup provided by Reason Magazine. The term seems to have been coined at a book forum for Tim Carney at the Cato Institute. In its next iteration, Ross Douthat succinctly defined Libertarian Populism as:

“A strain of thought that moves from the standard grassroots conservative view of Washington as an inherently corrupt realm of special interests and self-dealing elites to a broader skepticism of ‘bigness’ in all its forms (corporate as well as governmental), that regards the Bush era as an object lesson in everything that can go wrong (at home and abroad) when conservatives set aside this skepticism, and that sees the cause of limited government as a means not only to safeguarding liberty, but to unwinding webs of privilege and rent-seeking and enabling true equality of opportunity as well.”

What Is Going On In Egypt?

Over the past week, swelling protests in Egypt against the ruling regime boiled over, finally giving way to violence. Clashes erupted between secularists (who are aligned with the military) and Islamists (who are aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood); eventually Mohamed Morsi was ousted from the Presidency, exactly one year after he was democratically elected to the office. Egypt now stands on the brink of descending into full-blown chaos, and while Egyptians attempt to move the nation “back to democracy,” they risk losing their whole nation to civil war. This past week has left some wondering what Egyptian democracy even means anymore.

The Perpetual Battle for Natural Rights

With all the scandals today – namely, at the IRS, AP, and NSA – many believe our government’s actions are violating our natural rights: mostly, our freedoms of speech, press, due process, and privacy. These “natural rights” are fundamental basic human rights, not based on man-made positive law. Many of these rights were codified by our founders in the Bill of Rights… but not without tumult.

There are those today - even within the liberty movement - willing to compromise on many issues that would infringe on the natural rights of others, in both domestic and foreign policy. I think they are wrong. In this brief history of how our Bill of Rights came about, I encourage you to look for parallels between today’s struggles and our country’s founding.

A Constitution Without Rights

John Locke, regarded as the Father of Classical Liberalism, grounded the premise for his 1690 Second Treatise of Government on the idea of natural rights. This idea, while revolutionary at the time, provided a template for subsequent political theory. Merging Locke’s idea with the British Bill of Rights of 1689, George Mason, a member of the Virginia delegation, penned the Virginia Declaration of Rights in May of 1776 - preceding both the Virginia State Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In its Article 1, he penned these words:

We Already Knew About NSA’s PRISM Program

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the National Security Agency (NSA) has been using a program called PRISM to collect “metadata,” under a broad interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, to spy on Americans’ phone records and online data, even if they aren’t accused or suspected of a crime.

These revelations are nothing new, actually; we are just now getting the details. A YEAR AGO, Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) reported at WIRED’s Dangerroom:

“On at least one occasion,” the intelligence shop has approved Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to say, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found that “minimization procedures” used by the government while it was collecting intelligence were “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

At the time, Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez elaborated:

“The standard procedure for FISA surveillance is that “large amounts of information are collected by automatic recording to be minimized after the fact.” The court elaborated: “Virtually all information seized, whether by electronic surveillance or physical search, is minimized hours, days, or weeks after collection.”

The Bigger Problem with Susan Rice

Much ado has been made over President Obama’s selection of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to serve as the next National Secrutiy Advisor because of her role in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya. But Benghazi is only a symptom of a larger problem with Susan Rice: she’s a hardcore interventionist.

Rice

Since her involvement in the Clinton Administration’s response to the Rwanda Genocide - during which she served on the National Security Council - Rice has never objected to an American intervention.

Now seen as a “voice for intervention,” Rice was quoted in the aftermath of Rwanda::

“I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”

Eh, excuse me: Going down in flames?

What’s also concerning is that Susan Rice has viewed foreign policy as an extension of politics; in 1994, she is quoted as saying, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?”

Did Senator McCain Violate NDAA by Hanging Out with Syrian Rebels?

In case you missed it, Senator John McCain took the opportunity this Memorial Day to cross the Turkey-Syria border and hang out with Syrian rebels. These are the same rebels with ties to Al Qaeda. These are the same rebels cutting out and eating the hearts of dead soldiers. According to reports, Senator McCain wanted to go further into combat but was not allowed.

And he calls us wacko-birds.

The consequences of Senator McCain’s calls to intervene in Syria and meddle further in a civil war could be quite grave, as Russia is sending anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian regime. The use of chemical weapons has been reported – although it’s unsure which side is using them – with more attacks reported over the weekend.

After Obama’s Speech, Many Questions on Drones Still Unanswered

President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University yesterday was arguably one of the most important – and most consequential – of his Presidency. His nine pages of remarks on counterterrorism operations specifically focused on drone policy and the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and seemed to signal a shift (of some sort) to end the War on Terror against specific groups, but to continue a war against radicalized ideology.

I’ll discuss GTMO in a later post. On drone policy, President Obama addressed many of the questions I posed yesterday in my post at United Liberty; but addressing is not the same as answering. Many of those questions remain unanswered; worse yet, I’m afraid this is the best we will get on drone policy.

To be fair, Obama is in the unenviable position of making actual life-and-death decisions on national security. Mistakes will be made, and his challenge is to minimize mistakes. In his own words:

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Travis Thornton

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Travis has been a contributor to United Liberty since December 2012. He is a Defense consultant, financial manager, Navy veteran and former nuclear engineer, and has been blogging since 2007.


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