Skip to content

Archive for

Magic Crystals

Today I stumbled upon the greatest thing to have ever been discovered.

Browsing around on a color-picker app, near the Shamrock Green region, I found a neat shade called Malachite. (This is what happens during my Gen-Ed classes).

Now, the suffix -ite means that you have a crystalline or stalactitic version of the original, or at least my fourth grade geology class told me, if I remembered correctly. So I googled the term to see its origin.

malachite2

This is Malachite, a green crystal ubiquitous across the world. I found this nifty website that lists every location it can be found on Earth (everywhere, basically).

But the value of Malachite is much more than (1) being a cool name for a shade of green or (2) being a cool gem for a necklace.

In fact, I found a very credible website that lists all the proven benefits of Malachite. I’ve taken from their writings to compile this list.

Malachite can:

  • assist one in changing situations and providing for spiritual growth
  • heal on physical and emotional levels, drawing out impurities and stimulating the Life Force throughout the aura and body.
  • absorb negative energies and pollutants from the atmosphere and from the body.
  • guard against radiation of all kinds, clears electromagnetic pollution and heals earth energies. Keep near microwaves in the kitchen and televisions in living areas.
  • protect against noise in the workplace, over-bright fluorescent lighting, and harmful rays from technological equipment, negative phone calls and emails.
  • as a stone of travel, protect and overcome fears of flying if you empower the crystal before a trip by holding it and envisioning yourself in the wings of the Archangel, Raphael. It helps with jet lag, encourages smooth business travel, and protects in travel on congested highways.
  • be a stone of support for airplane and airline workers as a protection against accidents, miners for protection from unexplained accidents, and for secretaries to stimulate clear thinking
  • be an effective remedy for female problems, especially regulating the menstrual cycle and cramps, and for easing labor. It has been called the Midwife Stone. It resonates with the female sexual organs, and treats sexual dis-ease, especially when caused by traumatic past experiences
  • relieves cold sweats,
  • relieve malaria,
  • relieve trembling and
  • relieve Parkinson’s disease,
  • help with asthma,
  • help with intestinal problems and
  • help with rheumatic pain.
  • Function as a diuretic stone and can help cure kidney and gallstones.
  • fight osteoarthritis, most notably in the spine, and
  • strengthen memory, especially for those with short-term memory loss who forget the names of people right after hearing them.
  • treat epilepsy
  • treat travel sickness
  • treat vertigo
  • help in the healing of fractures, swollen joints, growths, tumors (!!!!!!!!!!!), torn muscles and broken bones.
  • enhance the immune system and stimulate the liver to release toxins.
  • as a stone of transformation, encourage change and emotional risk-taking.
  • show what is blocking your spiritual growth,
  • draw out deep feelings and psychosomatic causes, then allows you to break unwanted ties and outworn patterns.
  • encourage the expression of feelings, alleviating shyness and teaching the responsibility for one’s own thoughts and actions.
  • support friendships and empathy for other people.
  • help battle depression and anxiety, give resistance to emotional blackmail and heals emotional abuse, especially when suffered in childhood.
  • encourage healthy relationships based on love and not need.
  • assist in overcoming fear of confrontation, or fear of being seen or noticed, and helps one find the strength within to assume their rightful place in the Universe.
  • regulate our interaction with the external world and controls what we embrace and what we resist.
  • give us the balancing ability to be ourselves within the environment [via the heart chakra]
  • for those highly evolved and dedicated to humanitarian purposes, assist in grounding higher energies onto the planet for those purposes
  • for those in a purification process, act as a purger and a mirror to the subconscious, reflecting into the conscious mind that which needs to be cleansed.
  • absorb energy instead of emitting it because it is dense and nontransparent.
  • if placed over areas that are diseased or painful, draw out the negative energy and surface the causes for it. Because of the absorbing properties, it is important to cleanse the stones after such use.
  • be a powerful ally for those waiting for their reality to change.
  • remind us we have come here to co-create with the Universe, and helps in identifying the steps necessary to bring dreams, visions and wishes into physical reality.
  • reveal the truth about oneself and brings to the surface that which is unknown or unseen to the conscious mind.
  • when used, worn or meditated upon, draw out and reflect whatever is impeding spiritual growth, and is best used in conjunction with meditation to help balance and release the debris that is revealed.
  • break negative patterns of behavior, if you speak your fears and sorrows aloud daily as you hold the crystal, then, leave it in a sheltered place outdoors overnight to carry away the fears.
  • be used in meditations to get in touch with the Earth Mother. Holding one and sitting quietly on the ground for a few minutes helps many people to be more aware of the earth as a living organism upon whom we are totally dependent.
  • be used for scrying. Journeying through its convoluted patterns releases the mind, assisting in receiving insights from the subconscious or messages from the future.
  • hold evil spirits aloof and help children sleep soundly and peacefully if placed over an infant’s cradle.
  • enhance vitality,
  • bring abundance, and
  • keep us growing physically.
  • stimulate clear vision and insight

Wow! The cure to all of these problems has been found! I don’t know about you, but nothing on this list sounds bad. No osteoporosis? No tumors? Vitality? No Malaria? No Parkinson’s? Sign me up!

Later on in the page:

(Please note: Information on this web site is no substitute for consulting a health care professional. All information contained on this web site, including information relating to medical and health conditions, products and treatments, is for informational purposes only. Please see your doctor or health care professional before starting any alternative treatments, diets, supplements or exercise programs.)

Malachite must be handled with caution!

Malachite is toxic and should be used only in its polished form. Avoid breathing its dust.

We must again warn you: use only polished Malachite. Do not use any Malachite elixir. Do not place any malachite in your mouth. If you use this stone, use common sense. Place it on the body with a small cloth under it. It’s healing powers will not be diminished.

If only I had a small cloth.

“And While I’m At It” – Explained

A few weeks ago I performed a slam poem at my university’s open-mic night. Here is a link to the footage. Lest ye explode with the furious rage of ten million momma grizzly bears separated from their cubs, I’ve provided lengthy justifications of each stanza below.


And While I’m At It
Ross Neir (2016)

You see,
I was a conservative until last fall
He came and I fell out of my party
He spoke and I departed
He rebranded us as the alt-right
but i’m not alright with voting liberal either
so where does that leave me?
It leaves me put off with less hope in the political
System than even Trump could pretend not to have.

I began politics with an extreme right-wing ideology. Somewhere around 7th grade I had my first exposure to politics, when a few fundamentalists — who held to absolute truth! — taught me their perspective on the world. I didn’t know to question it. Everything they said was absolutely true. If you followed along from their premises, like I did, it all made sense — and their logic checked out quite well. I was pro-family, pro-war, and anti-secularism.

But during the fall of 2011 when the Ron Paul Revolution went into overdrive, I learned about the Libertarian Party, and it changed my mind on a lot of policy issues. Lockean ideas like self-ownership and the rights to life, liberty and property seemed like a good basis for policy, and from this logically came all the Libertarian Party positions, minarchism, (and even anarcho-capitalism), with rigor and consistency. I still hold most of these positions.

But last fall it all started shifting again. I went from a Libertarian leaning conservative to a Libertarian learning liberal.

But did I? Is that even true? I still believe in free trade, I still believe in laissez-faire capitalism, I still believe in de-escalation of the US military presence in the world, I still believe in immigration, I still believe in drug decriminalization. I didn’t change. But the Conservatives changed in sync with Trump’s campaign and I no longer fit with their label.

Trump didn’t coin the term ‘alt-right,’ but his supporters now dominate my demographic (white, teenage and college-aged, middle-class males who spend too much time on the internet) (see Tucker on the alt-right at this link). But was I supposed to automatically become a Democrat in response? I completely disagree with that party on economics, which is very important to me. This unresolved tension comes up later in my poem.

He says “They’re bringing drugs.
They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists…
And some, I assume, are good people”
But I say “They’re my neighbors
They’re sojourners.  They’re human
And all, I assume, are made in the image of God.”

This is a quote from Trump’s campaign launch speech in June of last year. He was arguing that we have no idea the mix of people that cross the boarder illegally into the United States from Mexico. Now, there are dozens of the problems with this, and Wikipedia has a nice list of them (link, other link, also follow Wiki’s footnotes for some well-done studies). Also I’d add that if we can’t conclude with certainty that Mexican immigrants are saints, then we also shouldn’t conclude with certainty that they are demons. My lines in this stanza rephrase Trump, because I think that our default attitude toward human rights issues should be to recognize their humanity before jumping to policy conclusions.

Even still, the number of undocumented Mexican immigrants to the U.S. has flatlined for several years (link), meaning either that no new Mexican immigrants are entering illegally, or they are entering and existing at mostly equal rates. Most immigration to the U.S. is legal (link) and “India was the leading country of origin for new immigrants, with 147,500 arriving in 2014, followed by China with 131,800, Mexico with 130,000, Canada with 41,200, and the Philippines with 40,500″ (link). At any rate, most illegal residency in the U.S. is from overstaying Visa times, not from dashing over the boarder at night, hence The Wall idea (link, very conservative perspective).

Trump does not regret this statement either (link), at all. “It’s common sense: they don’t want these people, so they send them to the United States because the United States is run by stupid people, we have stupid leadership, we have incompetent leadership that doesn’t know what it’s doing… so we take them…We take them because nobody else wants them. We are like a dumping ground. The United States, Erin, is like a dumping ground for the world’s problems.”

Now aside from the fact that immigration does not increase crime and that immigrants are less violent than non-immigrants (wiki links from three paragraphs up), who does Trump think is “sending” them? Is this an intentional state-sponsored program from other governments? Because if those other governments can’t make people follow their laws (crime, drugs, rape), then it probably also can’t get them to up-and-move to another country that barely speaks their language. Moreover, I’d expect criminals to favor their home countries, which have less strict and more corrupt policing than the U.S.

Trump’s language here is designed to evoke an emotional response more than a policy response — but the real tragedy is that he immediately follows up with a policy proposal and conflates the two. It becomes difficult to argue against The Wall logically or policy-wise when his followers are arguing from a deeply emotional place, and especially when that emotion is fear.

And While I’m at it,
I’d say that I’m okay with
Trump praising Putin
but can anybody really
Lie like that?
Can I support a man who supports a man
That supports men to kill for his power?
Conservatives hated Putin- until they didn’t.

This refers to his interview at the Commander-in-Chief forum a month ago (link). Slate published a great article on this (link). This author makes a really good point, that “Whatever else he may be, Putin projects responsibility*, sobriety (in multiple senses of the word) and a steady hand* on the affairs of state. And he has, indeed, ensured that Russia remains relevant* on the world stage.”

*Trump projects none of these things and his economic isolation and opposition to free trade agreements would minimize the U.S.’s place on the world stage. So in the sense that Trump wants to run the country like a dictator CEO, sure, he can love Putin’s leadership style all day; in any other regard, and in any way consistent with the American principles of separation of powers, he cannot.

U.S. foreign policy has been messy, nuanced, technical and complicated for over a century. We can’t, I stress, we cannot, I stress, we can not afford one president to leave and another to take office, only to have the other completely break line with the original’s plan. We need long term consistency in international relations. This was the tragedy of Obama’s ‘middle eastern power vacuum’ from leaving Iraq during his first term. Yet where Obama’s transition was subtle and gradual, Trump would be abrupt and abrasive. Day One: end NATO (link), which will lead to a large international conflict.

This should scare you. It scares me. Our world seems so strong, so solidified and so unbreakable. It would only take a few missteps to expose just how precariously perched the world really is above the ravines of global conflict and economic slough.

And While I’m At it,
Politically Correct This
Politically Correct that
But what if its racial inequality
That we’re mad at?
So what if Kaep takes a knee
When soldiers fought bled and died
So that he could speak free?

Conservatives complained for two years
about black lives matter being too violent;
someone let the coons out!;
get the animals back in their cages!
We want nonviolent protests! They said.
Yet Kaep’s nonviolent protest met their demand
And they still wanted him dead.

The Colin Kaepernick episode highlighted a great irony in conservatism: the same people who decry Political Correctness, meaning the repression of ideas outside the mainstream because they are deemed offensive or intolerant, were overwhelmingly offended at and intolerant of Kaepernick’s outside-the-mainstream method of protest. “But what if it’s racial inequality that we’re mad at?” means that conservatives selectively see and criticize Political Correctness – which means they don’t actually care about Political Correctness, they care about the issue being Politically Corrected, and they use Political Correctness as an abstract principle that happens to support them.

If you didn’t get what I just said, then here’s Slate Star Codex to the rescue:

“This is related to an idea I keep stressing here, which is that people rarely have consistent meta-level principles. Instead, they’ll endorse the meta-level principle that supports their object-level beliefs at any given moment. The example I keep giving is how when the federal government was anti-gay, conservatives talked about the pressing need for federal intervention and liberals insisted on states’ rights; when the federal government became pro-gay, liberals talked about the pressing need for federal intervention and conservatives insisted on states’ rights.” (link)

So, I’m saying that the same effect is true here. Conservatives aren’t actually against PC, they are just pro-conservative values, and sometimes that actually means being pro-PC..

When I say that “soldiers fought, bled and died so that he could speak free,” we have to remember that soldiers do not:

  1. sign up for war to protect US oil interests;
  2. sign up for war to help W. avenge his father’s misgivings a decade before;
  3. sign up for war to be pawns in a geopolitical and economic chess game.

These are the real reasons for war, among many others. But soldiers, in their mind, are fighting for the ideals of freedom and democracy. So to use soldiers in any other way than to support the free exchange of ideas is to defame their honor, to cast them as liars. Like ol’ Ron Paul said in one of those 2011 primary debates, “We don’t have the freedom of speech to talk about the weather. We have the first amendment so we can say some very controversial things.” And this, I say, is why we should honor individual soldiers by speaking out against the nation when our conscience convicts us to do so.

Conservatives complaining about BLM being too violent: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D, Exhibit E, Exhibit F, Exhibit G, … and if I had a link for every time I’ve heard this in person, my whole blog would be underlined in blue text.

Please note I myself am not calling blacks ‘coons’ or ‘animals,’ I am quoting a general sentiment among racist people kid from my high school who ranted on Facebook about BLM violence during the Ferguson protests in 2014 (or was it Baltimore in 2015?). He called blacks ‘animals’ in general, and then when a black kid from our school replied, he called him a ‘coon’ without remorse. He deserves to have his name posted here, and every fiber of justice in me wants to eternally blast him for his attitude towards blacks and hispanics. But I’ll relent. This enters into emotional waters, and I try to keep policy discussions dry when possible. At any rate, those three lines are within quotation marks because they do not originate from me.

And yes, Kaepernick did receive death threats for his protest.

And While I’m At It,
The media shoots for ratings
The alt media shoots for nonsense
How can I know whats happening?
How can I know whats happening?
But then again, who cares?
Who cares whats happening?
I did, but I don’t, and I won’t again.

I could say a lot about media cycles and the clickbait effect, but complex theoretical discussion aside, it is discouraging that I have to go unbelievably out of my way to receive accurate information when an entire field of Western professionalism is supposedly dedicated to doing that for me. Journalism is a paid field. Why should I, an unpaid, random teenager, have to move mountains to find the truth?

As much as Deplorables complain about the mainstream media, their media (the alt or alternative media) falls into the exact same incentives schemes as the MSM, but those outlets are obscure enough to mostly avoid fact-checking. This is even worse.

I’ll admit, it’s melodramatic to say that I won’t care about politics again. In fact, that is not true at all. But it expresses a sentiment of discouragement within myself and large swaths of the population who are tired of the same nonsense-on-loop that media outlets produce.

And While I’m At It,
Donald Trump may hate Muslims,
But hey, he loves cake-baking businesses
That can’t seem to understand
That Jesus made water into wine
And stopped the pharisees from stoning the adulterer
Jesus said “He who is without sin cast the first stone”
But Trump says “He who isn’t unluckily Middle Eastern cast the first stone”
Does he remember Simon the Zealot, the terrorist, the apostle?
Or Saul the persecutor of the Church, the murderer, the apostle?

His hatred of Islam has made him the center of Islamophobic thought in the country, naturally. He wants to “bomb the shit of them” (exact quote), doesn’t care about civilian casualties in the Middle East, wants to torture and kill the families of terrorists (per one of the primary debates last year), wants to give Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), had made a variety of discriminatory remarks about Muslims, and can we ever forget the Khizr Khan moment?

But again, he isn’t for or against discrimination itself. He is no where near principled enough for that. He just selectively employs it when convenient, and that happens to exclude the entire Christian/gay cake baking scandal.

Jesus’s attitude is probably not reproducible on a national policy level. Actually, I’m certain that it isn’t. But Trump himself, as a person, could try it out and see what happens.

I delivered this poem to a crowd of 19-22 year old evangelical students at an evangelical university. Everyone understood my references. I was amazed at how, two weeks later, I gave the same poem, and nobody at the secular, underground grunge/punk art show audience understood my metaphors. The audience’s religious background makes the difference. I’ll leave it to the reader to research Simon the Zealot and Saul the Persecutor of the Church. They are powerful New Testament figures, and all Christians should pray that more like them rise up out of the Middle East and Asia.

And While I’m At it,
I’ll coin a new term: The Trump Dump
Because Trump’s charity Dumped 200k in the pocket of
The Attorney General suing him for conning the rest of us
Oh, am I not supposed to say that out loud?
Could another Trump Dump be his
list of Supreme Court nominees come November 9th?
Oops. I’m really not supposed to say that out loud.

Trump rhymes with Dump. Aren’t I clever?

I’m sure that someone else has made that connection elsewhere but I had yet to see it when I wrote the poem, so it felt unique. I felt creative! In a lame, moronic way.

Whatever. The Attorney General case in Florida is a huge deal. That should have screamed corruption louder and more directly than even the Clinton Foundation did, which is a high standard to pass.

[CORRECTION, apparently the figure is 25k, not 200k (link). I’m not sure why I didn’t look this up. Most of the same principles still apply, regardless of scale.]

This article (link) makes the argument that Trump is the most corrupt candidate ever. After all, you don’t usually make it in business without collaborating with the government when all your competitors are collaborating with the government. So his corruption in business is based on economic self-interest rather than political self-interest (Clinton). Is that any better?

I see four types of elites in the American public landscape. The political establishment is the aggregation of all politicians that hold public office and maneuver to stay in office at the expense of principles. They tend to coalesce to the center, be neo-conservative on foreign policy, and gladly cooperate with party authorities. The mainstream media is a term for popular news companies that hold to a generally centrist line while having a very scripted, professional tone. They aren’t necessarily non-partisan (MSNBC and Fox are both very partisan in my opinion) and there are a lot of inconsistencies in defining it, but it tends to hold high standards for publication and therefore is seen as suppressing information sometimes when it actually just isn’t willing to break controversial news that may not be credible. The business elite are the billionaires that Bernie Sanders decried throughout his campaign. They run large banks or companies, own most of the country’s wealth, pull the economic levers behind the scenes, and work together with the bureaucracy to suppress competition. The cultural elite are actors, celebrities, art producers, musicians, relatives of other famous people, former politicians, and other leaders in the culture. They tend to lead the way in attitudes and cultural norms and disproportionately live in California, Oregon and the East Cost.

Donald Trump belongs to group number three. He may not have been liked by his fellow business elites: I remember seeing that Goldman Sachs even used him as an example in their staff training on avoiding terrible investments. But nonetheless, he has acted just like them. He hasn’t been scruntinized for as long as Clinton or as hard as Clinton (link on Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign CEO, notice the line “we’ve got $1.3 billion of equipment I’m using at almost full capacity” being used to dig dirt on the Clinton Foundation. To my knowledge, this isn’t being done against Trump). So in that more broad sense, he is just as much a part of the corrupt system as the rest.

In May, Trump published a list of SCOTUS nominees to replace Scalia (link) and in September released a new list (link). I’d not be surprised if a President Trump scraps both and goes with someone else, although I’d also not be surprised if he just picks the most business-elite-friendly option from his lists, whoever that is.

And While He’s at it,
He’ll just divide the country any way he sees fit
And slander anyone who calls him out on it
But in spite of the propaganda and the panda panda panda
We aren’t all as different as Trump makes us feel
And we don’t have to ruin the nation
To demonstrate some ill-placed zeal

Political polarization is when the population moves farther to the extremes and leaves the middle ground. This has happened and has been extensively documented over the last decade (link). 

polarization

And the data hasn’t come out yet for 2015 or obviously for 2016, but I’d speculate that this has accelerated. The left is getting lefter and the right is getting righter. Trump’s hyper collectivizing of the most divisive segments of society doesn’t help. His racially charged rhetoric, or even just his support of Blue Lives Matter over All Lives Matter, has further solidified this along racial lines. I think this is a huge problem in American society and having an ultra-controversial figure lead the way is a great solution.

Does he slander anyone who calls him out? Not ‘anyone,’ because that would be impossible given that half of the name-recognizable figures in the country have called him out, but we’ve seen it over and over throughout the campaign. He’s threatened to sue the NY Times for publishing his sexual assault advocacy tapes, let’s not forget the Khan family episode (and this article about Trump defamation in that case (link)), and I’m sick of writing this blog post so you can go research other lawsuits he has threatened. There are a lot.

Trump’s propaganda is just as bad as anyone else’s propaganda. The ‘panda, panda, panda’ refers to that one song that I hate and it just seems vaguely creepy. That is a good description of Trump’s rhetoric — I hate it and it just seems vaguely creepy. This isn’t a very strong argument. There is a racial dimension to the song Panda, though I’m unsure of that as well, and again like Trump, it’s something vaguely racial that I’m unsure of.

What is this ill-placed zeal? It’s the passion of the Evangelical Right, the passion of people who care about constitutional original intent, the people who value economic freedom, all being willing to support these issues over the issue of racial justice. The swap didn’t have to happen, and I recognize that people are choosing the lesser of two evils, but the race piece didn’t have to be this way. The other Republican candidates held to those principles without the race shtick. It didn’t have to be this way.

But before you think I’ve come to support Clinton
I’ve got a few emails to show you
And a bridge to sell you
But no story here to tell you
Only the story of a boy who turned 18
And couldn’t escape the two party system.

Hillary Clinton represents almost everything wrong with the political establishment. Politically connected – to the point of corruption. Tries to be efficient – to the point of overstepping boundaries. Involved in the action – to the point of making mistakes. Works in the law – to the point of being above the law. Tries to save face and put forth a diplomatic front – to the point of lying.

Her policies on war continue the current administration’s policies. Her policies on the economy continue the current administration’s policies. Her policies on social issues continue the current administration’s policies. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that voters see her as a puppet for some grand globalist NWO conspiracy. She seems to exist as a politician but not as a policy maker, an empty hollow pant-suit shell, and the least common denominator is neoliberal economics and broadly rational-sounding diplomacy-based foreign relations.

Scandal after scandal after scandal — after a while I have to wonder, “couldn’t we have just found someone else?” There have to be at least a dozen senators or high-office holders in the Obama administration who are relatively scandal-free, not to mention Bernie Sanders. The conspiracy theorists are rarely wrong about her. She really isn’t great.

By emails, I refer to her email server, the deletion of 33,000 emails, and the DNC email hacks. I didn’t know at the time, but there would also be the Podesta emails leaked in the weeks following my writing of this poem. Emails seem to be a general theme.

Until he did.

What led me to my current political philosophy? Ron Paul’s campaign in 2012 opened my mind to libertarianism. Stefan Molyneux’s radio show from 2014 to early 2015 (before he went full Trump and reversed half his philosophy) gave my critical thinking stills and expanded my perspective on rationalism. My political science professor at Beloit College last fall gave me the professionalism-in-politics mindset that I now choose to use, along with the categories necessary to understand international relations. The blog Slate Star Codex (mentioned in this post probably at least five times) has helped me view policies on a system-level and understand the dilemma before evaluating right and wrong. I’ve done lots of independent study — lots, and spent years thinking critically about governance.

These gradually led me away from conservatism, but I didn’t see how far I’d drifted. I still identified as a Republican — because, after all, I’m not a Democrat! — and voted in the Republican primary in March. After that, it occurred to me.

In the past months I’ve come to believe that the US Constitution is deeply flawed and needs revision or replacement. Now, I am a constitutionalist; countries need founding documents that specify how the government will divide powers, and that document should prevent or delay the state-sprawl of politics beyond its original scope. But the 1789 US Constitution was drafted without consideration of 21st century instant communication, or the now 240 years of experience upon which political scientists draw conclusions. First-past-the-post voting must end. This means revising Congress to be a parliamentary or other system, providing party accountability instead of individual political accountability (which barely exists anyway).

The two party system will either collapse or reorient itself along new battle lines. I am hoping for the former, somehow, but without the aforementioned constitutional changes, the two party system will creep right back in. It isn’t the product of random history; it is the product of the structure in which it operates. I’m writing a very, very, very long article about this. About 15,000 words. Give me some time there to explain myself, it should be done before the election.

Because, While I’m At it,
Maybe my vote may be a protest vote
And maybe my vote may be a throwaway vote
But I’ll tell you this:
I’m fully convinced in my own mind on this vote
That the only vote I’ll be casting on November 8th
Is a Gary Johnson vote.

Gary Johnson is not a perfect candidate. He doesn’t have the intellectual purity and command of policy that Ron Paul had in 2008 and 2012. He appears to not have much grounding in international relations. He sure climbed Mt. Everest, though! I wish that he hadn’t ran at the convention in May. Austin Peterson or John McAfee could have carried the torch much better.

Nonetheless, the Libertarian Party represents the most acute attack on the two party system that I can see. They are in third place in this election and therefore will send the loudest message. But beyond that, I am a libertarian, so it makes sense anyways.

I do not believe in protest votes or throwaway votes. If you are running for president of my country, you have to earn my vote. It is the height of entitlement — which Trump’s supporters so loudly decry — to assume you deserve my vote just because I am not a Democrat. Nor does not voting for Trump mean that I’m implicitly casting a vote for Clinton. I live in Illinois, after all, and I’d predict at least a 10% margin for Clinton in this election. My vote doesn’t count anyways. This is another problem with the current Constitution – the Electoral College nullifies the votes of anyone living in a “safe” state and amplifies the votes of anyone living in swing states.

“I’m fully convinced in my own mind” refers to Paul in Romans 14. It is a matter of conscience. See also Luther before the Diet of Worms: “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other.”

This is the point in the performance where I unbutton my outer shirt and reveal to the audience that I’m actually wearing my Gary Johnson shirt. It’s pretty dramatic, it doesn’t mean anything in and of itself, but it’s memorable and audiences eat it right up. It’s a piece of visual rhetoric to accentuate my point.

So, when my absentee ballot comes in the mail sometime next week, I’ll be filling in the bubble for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. I’ve known this for a long time. Back in May of 2015, I said I’d end up voting for Rand Paul in the primaries and the Libertarian candidate, whoever that is, in the general. 17 months later, and it’s hard to believe it has been that long, we are here. The election is over in just about two weeks. I’m glad, and I’m happy to move on to non-electoral politics again. Or just non-politics again, though it seems inescapable in many ways.

Srebrenica Today

The town of Srebrenica (pronounced “sreb-ren-it-suh”) sits near the boarder between Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is the same population as my town — Roscoe and Rockton, Illinois — but its history and significance vastly outscale its size. It recurred in news coverage this past week, and not positively. But to understand the recent media coverage, you must first understand several pieces of the town’s history.

Background: 1946-1989

yugoslaviaYugoslavia’s location within Europe

Yugoslavia began several decades before 1946, but that history is another complex issue, and the narrative relevant to Srebrenica begins after WWII, when Tito became president. Yugoslavia was a merger of several regions that were left kingless after the Empire of Austria-Hungry collapsed. The Nazi offensive invaded in 1941, established a semi-puppet totalitarian regime called the Ustase, which murdered half a million people and acted in a generally-consistent-with-Hitler way, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.

But anyways. 1946 marks a turning point Yugoslavia’s history because, WWII dictatorships over, the country reorganized itself into six (or seven, depending on if you split up Serbia or not) republics under a new central dictator, Tito. He led the country in unity, didn’t show enough special treatment to any of the republics to upset the others, and split with the USSR to be a socialist, but not Soviet, state. Tito led the country in a nationalized market and socialist system mixed with some market elements.

Except “didn’t show enough special treatment to any of the republics to upset the others” ignores the fact that he completely did. Tito upset the Croats, who led a revolt/protest midway through his rule to protest unfair treatment relative to the Serbs. See John Cox, “The History of Serbia,” Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 2002. 109 for more on the Croatian Spring and also for more in general on this historical backdrop.

So ethnic tensions grew, or rather, didn’t recede much from their WWII levels. This never led to a successful revolt against Tito, the country remained internally at peace, and he remained in office until his death in 1980.

And as the citizens sit back, helpless but to watch their country’s tenuous multi-ethnic peace dissipate into full blown war, everything came undone. Kosovo, a territory in southern Serbia, begins to protest, nothing gets resolved, other republics begin to protest, and Yugoslavia dissolves. The problem isn’t in dissolution; the problem is in which territories would fall under the auspice of which ultra-nationalist leader, and Kosovo became the issue. Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina each declare independence. Croatia soon follows. Kosovo, which is not a republic, began to act like one, rather than a province within Serbia, and you can imagine how that went. Coincidentally the economy sinks into decline; real wages fell by 10% annually throughout the 1980s.

Civil War: 1992-1995

With these territorial issues and the economic slump came Slobodan Milosevic, a Serbian who constructed a dictatorial machine around himself, declared martial law in Serbia, seized control of the Serbian national media and cranked its propaganda up to 11. Yet, Cox writes,

“Milosevic did not suddenly become a full-blown nationalist and turn his back on communism overnight. Instead he performed an amazing, if malevolent, balancing act. He appealed at once to the Titoist legacy and to the new, anti-Titoist nationalism beginning to emerge among Serbs… He cleverly sat on the fence and worked both crowds; at other times, he switched from one tactic to the other. To the large numbers of Serbs who held military or state jobs, or who were pensioners, Milosevic played himself off as the upholder of Yugoslavia; he would preserve the status quo and they would preserve their positions, pensions, and pride. To the others, he promised to correct the injustices of the Titoist system and see that Serbs got their fair share of the pie — that is, that Serbia would dominate Yugoslav politics or else gather all of its co-nationals into a state to call its own.” (Cox, History of Serbia, 135).

Yugoslavia slid into civil war between its member republics. Serbia and Croatia fought, Serbia and Bosnia fought, I’m fairly certain if I remember correctly that Bosnia and Croatia fought, and everything fell along religious and ethnic lines (which were tightly associated with each other; you were either Muslim and Bosnian, Orthodox and Serbian, or Catholic and Croatian, with few exceptions).

(Of course there were Bosnian Serbs and Serbian Croats and Croatian Serbs and Serbian Croats and Slovenian Croats and Croatian Solvenes and every possible recombination of these identities, but “Bosnian Serb” refers to a Serbian person who live in Bosnia, so it’s a description of both geography and identity. When you only look at identity, it is clear-cut).

Hopefully this is enough historical background.

In the midst of this war, Bosnian Muslims were forced out of or fled from areas with hostile Serbian military presence and segregated themselves into little enclaves. The UN helped bus these refugees out of dangerous areas and into the enclaves (Cox, 149). These naturally became easy targets for the Serbian military to bomb, and they did. Thousands of casualties came from the refugee areas, and the UN again intervened to declare several of them “safe areas,” which didn’t mean much. This declaration meant that the UN would send peacekeeping forces (though light) to the towns, and also focused the international community’s attention on those areas, which led to bargaining with live hostages and Milosevic’s army threatening to destroy civilians whenever the UN intervened too much (Cox, 150). Not a great balancing act, but there wasn’t much else they could do.

Srebrenica: July 1995

So the war slows down in late 1994 and early 1995. But in July of 1995, the Bosnian Serbs (ethnic Serbians who lived in Bosnia and held allegiance to Serbia) invaded Srebrenica because the town held several Muslim Bosnian military figures. A few hundred UN peacekeepers had been in the town since 1993 when it was designated a “safe zone,” and they kept about 25,000 people safe, while 15,000+ civilians tried to escape the city. After several days of siege and shelling, the Serbs invaded and began a vicious massacre.

It is difficult to describe the event because our eyes glaze over numbers like 8,000, or 40,000 and we can’t process how large that is. We go about our lives in social circles of 200 people, maximum, and our brains tend to black out beyond that. But imagine this: an 11 year old boy is yanked off a school bus into an open field, made to stand up next to an open pit in the ground, has a machine gun place to his temple, and shot. His dead body falls into the pit with a lame thump, and they bring out the next boy. Eventually enough bodies accumulate to fill the pit, the troops dig another mass grave, and the process repeats until eight thousand men have been killed.

srebrenica-mass-graveA mass grave in Bosnia, 1995

You and your father escape the town, knowing that danger is imminent, and flee into the woods. But the Serbs were waiting in the woods. They convince you to turn yourself in peacefully — and nothing will happen! — so you walk over to them. They grab your shoulder to spin you around, and shoot you through the back of your skull.

Eight men are bound and thrown into the back of a truck. The truck slugs along a dirt path a few miles outside of town. It pulls into a small clearing in the woods. The men yell at the prisoners to hurry up, to get out of the truck quickly. They taunt the prisoners: “when you were killing Serbs you didn’t wait.” The bound men lay on their front, knowing they will die in a few moments. A few shake. The soldiers decide to move the execution elsewhere. So they walk the prisoners forward, making them put one foot in front of the other, into the line of fire, until they fall to the ground, skulls laced with lead. Two Bosniaks are left alive and are forced to drag their friends’ bodies into a ditch. The soldiers find another one left alive. A soldier farther back yells out, “wait, I have three bullets!” They aim, and take his life. (Very graphic Youtube link here; requires account login to verify age over 18).

A few 19 year old boys leave their house and try to escape westward, away from the Serbian troops. They get in a car to drive out. After a few minutes of driving, they pass the town limits and see something up ahead. It is a military roadblock and in a few moments they die. You can imagine how.

(The second and third examples are documented; the first and fourth are hypothetical)

Is that too graphic? It still understates reality. If we wanted to get really graphic, I could also describe the rape of the town’s women. The media picked up that story, along with the killing of the town’s men, and international pressure began to really build. It was graphic enough that UN leaders first began to allow rape to be categorized as an act of war, when used in war as an intentional tactic against the enemy combatants or population.

Does this make your blood boil? Do you feel anything while reading this? Did you want to scream when watching the video? Whatever you are feeling, multiply that by a factor of several hundred, and you might begin to understand the sentiment of the residents of Srebrenica today.

From Jane Springer, “Genocide: A Groundwork Guide,” Toronto: Groundwood Books / House of the Anansi Press. 2006. 73.

Muslim men were sent to concentration camps, tortured and murdered. The worst massacre of the genocide took place during six days at Srebrenica from July 11 to 16, 1995. There, under the eyes of international peacekeepers, the Serbian forces separated the city’s men (all those between the ages of 11 and 65) from the women. The men and boys were loaded onto trucks or buses and driven to execution sites in isolated locations where they were shot — 8,000 of them.

During the genocide, an estimated 50,000 Muslim women were captured and taken to schools or community centers where they were gang-raped and continually abused, for days or weeks or months at a time. The rapists told the women that they wanted to impregnate them so that they would have Serb babies. Once pregnant, the women were often kept imprisoned until it was too late for them to have safe abortions.

An estimated 200,000 of a total population of of 3.2 million Bosnian Muslims were killed in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Ultimately world leaders pointed to this massacre as the tipping point in the need for intervention. The UN had already been bombing Serbian forces, even in Srebrenica (though too late), but the whole situation really escalated after this.

The U.S. bombed the region, airdropped supplies to civilian areas and negotiated the Dayton Peace Accords, which ultimately ended the war in December of 1995. It was a long road to recovery, if by ‘recovery’ you mean barely mending the civilian populations, having to tip-toe ethnic divisions for fear of complete societal collapse, and the issue remaining at the forefront of the collective Bosnian and Serbian psyches. In fairness, progress has been made: some of the Serbian leaders responsible have been tried in international courts and been found guilty. But in large, this remains an undercurrent just below the surface of the political landscape.

Genocide?

The word genocide divides people. Nationalist leaders are viewed as weak by acknowledging that it happened, and their populations deny it, if they can. They don’t want to use “the G word” because it sounds so bad. An article hosted by Amnesty International notes that “denial has become the natural law of co-existence.” The country’s unstated but very consistent policy is to not acknowledge anything at all. This maintains a tenuous peace.

That same AI article:

The International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague, the International Court of Justice and the state court of Bosnia and Herzegovina have established it as such – genocide. What some deny ever happened is the only atrocity in Europe to be labelled genocide since WW2.

Actually, denial was the first reaction to the massacre – as the perpetrators of the crimes in Srebrenica dug up the primary mass graves, and moved the bodies into secondary and tertiary mass graves. At times, they even burned the bodies. From then onwards, it was easier to deny what had occurred. When the remains were found, the denial took another form – it was claimed that those killed were legitimate military targets. This argument is still being used, even though 421 child victims have been re-buried so far, one of them a new-born baby, and even though the adults who were killed include a 94-year-old woman, Šaha Izmirliæ.

The Bosnian Serb wartime campaign caused untold misery but it did not achieve its genocidal objective. Muslims continue to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A handful have even returned to Srebrenica. The fate of the nation depends on co-operation between the communities – but the trust is gone.  (Link here).

And the international court system is a cumbersome process with a high burden of proof. To be consistently found guilty, including in appeals, denotes the most certainty we can have that this really happened, and that genocide is the best term to describe it.

The international legal definition of genocide stated in the 1951 Convention on Genocide is worded this way:

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

So this means that genocide must be intentional — and you have to be able to prove it — that the perpetrators targeted a group “as such,” meaning because they are part of that group. Mass killings of another population’s military forces is not genocide, since that could serve a tactical purpose in the war, but indiscriminate killing of anybody, regardless of military status, could be. Killing is not the only form of genocide. Anything that destroys the target group also counts., like preventing births (forced sterilization included) would “deny them the right to exist,” though it may take a generation to achieve.

People associate genocide with mass murder because the only genocides they learn in school are the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. But genocide may or may not include mass killings, and mass killings may or may not be genocide. My professor last fall for an International Relations class was adamant that Pol Pot’s mass killings in Cambodia in the 1970s was not genocide, because of the lack of national, ethnic, racial, or religious discrimination. He just killed everyone. He killed people of his own ethnicity too. (My professor quickly affirmed that his actions were a Crime Against Humanity and were several War Crimes, but technically by definition was not genocide). Conversely, the Canadian government (though this is hotly debated) committed genocide against its indigenous population without mass killings. They used forced sterilization and separated children from parents to assimilate them into Canadian society, essentially killing the indigenous society without killing the indigenous people.

This definition also includes “in whole or in part,” meaning that scale doesn’t really matter. Serbs targeted Muslims living in Bosnia, not all Muslims everywhere, but this doesn’t impact the events in Srebrenica.

So in the specific case of Srebrenica, on intent to destroy the court rules that “[t]he Bosnian Serb forces knew, by the time they decided to kill all of the military aged men, that the combination of those killings with the forcible transfer of the women, children, and elderly would inevitably result in the physical disappearance of the Bosnian Muslim population at Srebrenica.” (See Katherine Southwick, “Srebrenica as Genocide? The Krstić Decision and the Language of the Unspeakable” UT Dallas, for critical opinion. Link here). If this seems straightforward, it isn’t. It took months of debate to determine, and still receives scholarly dissent from Serbs and some independent analysts alike. But nonetheless, it stands as the official ruling.

On in whole or in part, we see that the population was not entirely destroyed, and also that the event occurred in less than a week. The Serbs also spared the lives of the women. But as men are requisite to reproduction, even this does not escape the definition’s wording of “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.” At any rate, they killed all the men. This certainly would be “in part” in a substantial way.

On a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, it is clear that the Bosniaks were distinct from the Serbs in both ethnicity and religion. This was not purely political (political genocide does not exist; notice party affiliation is not a category in this list) since Bosniaks were not just some distinct political group within Bosnia, held together by ideology. The divisions go deeper than that. The Bosniaks and the Bosnian Serbs were separated on Muslim-Orthodox and Bosnian-Serbian grounds. Both of these distinctions qualify in this part of the definition.

On as such, Bosnian Serbs have retrospectively made the claim that they only targeted military officers and outposts, and Srebrenica was an important military target. While the later is undeniable, the former is untenable. As the Amnesty International article above pointed out, people were killed that fell far outside the military recruitment age (like 12 year old boys, infants, and elderly women). But again, let us not think that genocide is only mass murder. The non-murder actions against the town’s women would also independently count as genocide, and this cannot be rationally justified under military grounds.

On (a), (b), (c), (d), and (e), the Bosnian Serbs certainly violated (a), (b), and (d). (c) was not committed because “conditions of life” were not imposed. The genocide lasted only a few days. This would be more fitting for something like the Holocaust where the targeted population was forced to live long-term in ghettos and later in concentration camps. These are conditions of life. But short term, instantaneous actions like the events in Srebrenica do not set up conditions of life. (e) was not committed to my knowledge, but again this is because this event was only a few days, not a widespread campaign.

(Although the Bosniaks disagree and argue that the entire segment of the civil war from 1993-1995 was a genocide, and that Srebrenica was only one example in a wider pattern of genocidal behavior from the Bosnian Serbs. At any rate, I still have not found in my research any separation of children from parents).

So, in my evaluation, this event really was a genocide.

That doesn’t stop some people.

This Month

Al Jazeera published an article this week about a new development in the post-war tensions. A Bosnian Serb named Grujicic is about to become the mayor of the town. Keep in mind that Bosnian Serbs, especially their politicans, either deny the events of Jul 1995 outright, minimize their severity by claiming the numbers are inflated, or reject the label of genocide.

Dan Mclaughlin, “Srebrenica tense as Bosnian Serb poised to become mayor,” Al Jazeera News, 13 October 2016. (Link here)

(Do note that the entire election might have to be redone due to ballot irregularities and a pending recount).

The town of Srebrenica, again, holds greater significance that one would expect. The head of the EU delegation to Bosnia and Herzevogina says that Srebrenica is “an enormous focal point,” and that “The next major challenge for Bosnia is defusing the danger around Srebrenica, the remote and troubled town.”

grujicicGrujicic, 2016, the mayor-elect of Srebrenica, and a Bosnian Serb

Now the article does point out that “Grujicic says he will not interfere with the annual July 11 commemoration of the massacre, but also insists that it is time to focus on boosting the town’s ailing economy and improving prospects for its residents.” This isn’t the worst policy to propose. I think improving the economy and increasing economic interactions between groups is a great way to force them to become interdependent, which deters civil war. But really? Not address it at all? Lets just move on, like nothing ever happened?

The last 18 months or so have seen an increase in polarization in Bosnia. Nationalist fervor has again been used by Bosnian Serbs to gain political power. The AJ article, referring to the most recent elections, says that “Bosnian Serbs rallied to Dodik in the elections, which also saw nationalists flourish in Bosniak and Croat areas, and swept several convicted criminals – including a war criminal – into local political office.”

Additionally, the aforementioned war criminal, now a higher-up politician in the province where Srebrenica sits, held a referendum “about opting out of the state judicial system, so it means in that area he is already working on independence,” according to the Austrian diplomat from the AJ article.

I hope you can see where I am going with this.

One individual mayor in the town doesn’t matter very much, beyond symbolism. But an entire province being politically flipped and then floating ideas about independence should really, really be cause for concern. When that same Austrian diplomat says that “for the international community there are not many red lines, but this is one,” we should be bracing ourselves for escalation. Escalation is not inevitable — it doesn’t have to happen, and certainly doesn’t have to happen on any given timetable we can predict — but it can, and that alone should be concerning.