Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Media's Unexamined Pro-power Spin

In the Guardian today, Simon Jenkins writes on the recent spectacle of spy chiefs colluding with parliamentarians to completely gerrymander the enquiry into their criminal activities.

To give you a flavour of how woefully miscast this article is, here's a headline:

The days of believing spy chiefs who say 'Trust us' are over

Firstly, I dont know about you, but I never trusted either the spies or their chiefs. I never thought it made sense, for example, to trust someone whose entire reason for existing is to deceive, to lie, to dissemble, to mislead, and misdirect.

Now, I understand why politicians employ such people, but I never thought anyone should or would be fool enough to trust them. (Indeed, I dont believe the politicians ever did trust them; that's just another of the impolite fictions they promulgate against us. More on that later, maybe.)

And understanding this, I never trusted the assurances given to us by the politicians, that these people are totally under control, that politicians have rigorous knowledge of and oversight of their activities, and etc.

It's simply not credible, ever, that people selected, trained, legally empowered and funded, for their ability to deceive, can be trusted to be honest with their employers. This is especially true when their employers - the political class - are not exactly the most morally upright people to ever walk the earth, themselves.

But wait! - it gets worse:
The world now faces total electronic penetration, with huge power to those who control it. After Edward Snowden, we would be deluded to accept any assurances.
 After.  After Ed Snowden, we'd be deluded to 'accept any assurances'.

What about before Edward Snowden, Mr Jenkins? Would an intelligent, educated, informed, rational, prudent and cautious person, have accepted the bland and blithe assurances of the second-most dishonest class of people ever to walk the earth - politicians - before Edward Snowden's revelations?

The same people who lied us into invading Iraq, who lied about their reasons for invading Afghanistan, who are still lying about Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Vietnam, and Korea?

Would assurances from these people have been acceptable if Edward Snowden had stayed on the reservation?

No, Mr Jenkins, no, these assurances were never credible, never onvincing, and never could be. They were never believable and no thoughtful person ever believed them.

In point of fact, no person in a position of public power should ever be trusted. The laws, the constitutional documents and customs, the checks and balances of democratic mechanisms, exist because we recognise explicitly that no person in a position of public power can ever be trusted.

We cannot afford to trust in such cirumstances. The probability of corruption is too high: approaching 100% over time, and the consequences of error are too great. As more of us are now realising; right, Mr Jenkins?

But wait! - it gets worse:
Any claim that "everyone knew these things were going on" is rubbish.
Quite. Not everyone knew because not everyone wanted to know. But some of us knew, not because we had the documentary evidence that Mr Snowden has now supplied, but because we had the evidence of history and of human nature, that history supplies to anyone who cares to look. Plus we had a lot of clues revealed by other events and stories, like this one.

Given what Mr Snowden has now revealed, who was talking rubbish before his revelations, Mr Jenkins?


Dont get me wrong, I agree with a lot of Mr Jenkins' views on any number of questions. He's often written excellent analyses subsequently published in the pages of the Guardian, and I've told him so in comments there.

The problem with Mr Jenkins' view on this point is that it continues and fosters the "oh dear, mistakes were made" dissembling of the most habitual and consequential criminals on our planet. Therefore, today he is my stalking horse for the whole of the establishment media.

I never made the mistake of accepting the blithe assurances of rigorous oversight by elected members.

The elected members themselves - with perhaps a very few very naive exceptions - never made this mistake.

Both I and they knew full well that the spies cannot ever be trusted.

So why does Mr Jenkins even attempt this pallid whitewash?

Why does an intelligent, informed, educated, and erudite man apparently believe that the Snowden revelations reveal something entirely unanticipated?

I dont believe Mr Jenkins is a consciously bad person. I dont believe he consciously intends to deceive. Quite the opposite, I believe in his good intentions.

But I also believe he is living a life of unexamined predispositions that have blinded him to otherwise very obvious truths, such as those I have described above regarding the innate untrustworthiness of those weilding great power in secret.

It's not like Mr Jenkins hasn't heard of Lord Acton and his famous dictum, is it? Surely he hasn't forgotten the destruction of Iraq? I mean, it's not entirely over yet, is it?

What Mr Jenkins is guilty of is not examining - and then rejecting - these predispositions when there is (A) an overwhelming wealth of historic and current evidence that they are false, and (B) no chance at all that Mr Jenkins has been ignorant of this evidence, and (C) no chance that Mr Jenkins lacks the ability to comprehend it's import.

Mr Jenkins' major guilt lies in his position of privilege: he not only has access to the relevant facts, access to the pertinent history, and is possessed of the intellect and training to deal with them, but he occupies the position of a protected purveyor of political analysis. In other words, he's a journalist whose explicit function is to critically examine these questions, these predispositions, and make public judgements on them.

It seriously calls into question his fitness for the role if he tries to claim he has not seen the necessity to first apply that critical examination process to himself.

The article he produces is thus true in the most limited sense: after Snowden, nobody should trust the bland assurances of the spies or the politicians who claim to have them under tight control.

We now know, without any possibility of error, that both of these assurances are false.

What the article gets wrong is that Mr Jenkins claims we didnt know this before Snowden. He further implies hat we couldn't anticipate the falsity of these assurances. That the corruption of those weilding enormous power in secret was neither inevitable nor predictable.

But we did know this before Snowden.

We could - and many of us did - anticipate the falsity of these assurances.

We knew without any possibility of error that the corruption was inevitable and we did predict it.

If Mr Jenkins didn't know this, and didn't anticipate it, what right has he to any audience today? What credibility does he have left as an informed and honest analyst of the weilding of public power?

The issues he has "overlooked" and left unexamined are the most critical issues facing us all today. If Mr Jenkins lacks the ability or the will to examine them critically then what good is he to us?

Mr Jenkins, your essay has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Your performance is a pretty good marker for the state of your entire profession:

E minus: capable of far better.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Thoroughly Corrupted, Thoroughly Corrupting

We start with a relatively simple and demonstrable premise:
Our political systems in the self-styled western liberal democracies are thoroughly corrupted and, therefore, thoroughly corrupting.
In particular, the Party systems that dominate every democracy on this planet are the repositories of concentrated power and therefore – as per Lord Acton – concentrated corruption.

The most emphatic demonstration of the thorough corruption of our political systems is the utter dominance of imperial mercantilist policy over many decades, in spite of regular changes of governments between the major parties. These parties are nominally ideological opposites, allegedly implacably hostile to each others political philosophies and therefore policies.

In reality they maintain a continuity of policy that reveals the Kabuki theatre aspect of their existence; the opposition is fake, the hostility as genuine as a World Wrestling Federation match, the philosophical differences a matter of rhetoric over reality, of style over substance.

A further demonstration of the corruption of the Party system is the internal contradictions of each Party's policy positions.

The self-styled conservatives in both Britain and America (and their allies) have talked fiscal responsibility for decades, while simultaneously running up the largest deficits and debts the world has ever seen. They have spoken of peace, of humble foreign policy, and of a clear-eyed perspective on the limits of military power, while indulging in a horrific sequence of aggressive wars of choice against helpless foes, based on totally invented pretexts.

The self-styled liberals, their erstwhile opposition, have enthusiastically joined in both the economic and political adventures of the conservatives. In total abandonment of their rhetorical policy of peace they have escalated wars they previously (and somewhat cravenly) categorised as gross strategic blunders. In similar abandonment of their rhetoric of economic responsibility they have doubled down on the profligacy of the conservatives, reverting to their historic “deficits dont matter” spending practices but unmatched by their historic high tax policies, thereby increasing the already eye-watering indebtedness of their citizens.

In perhaps the worst betrayal of all, they have continued to talk like ACLU activists while actively participating in the building of the most intrusive and abusive global surveillance state imaginable, a system of executive over-reach that is inherently irreconcilable with any part of liberal philosophy.

Put plainly, there is nothing either conservative or liberal in the ongoing destruction of western civilisational norms perpetrated by both the major political parties that lay claim to these labels.

The self-applied labels have become false flags of convenience, tribal affiliation designators, and nothing else.

In short, they are lies. They are deliberate untruths designed to entrap the unwary.

The corrupting influence of these corrupt organisations is also apparent in the results they produce. The uniformity of policy across successive administrations displays the absolute abandonment of principle which is incumbent upon any potential candidates who want the support of the Party machinery which is typically necessary to challenge for high public office.

This is especially so when the candidate doesn't bring substantial amounts of their own funding, or funding sources, to the table. In other words, the history of Prime Ministerial and Presidential campaigns is that the most financially independent candidates have shown the most 'personality', the most steadfast adherence to their own personal beliefs, whereas the least financially independent have been the most craven servants of power.

(As Obama is rumoured to have "joked", this may be why he's still alive while JFK is not.)

We dont know, and will likely never know in specific individual cases, all of the reasons why it is that political candidates speak so eloquently and forcefully on their principles, values and beliefs during their campaigns, and then abandon those principles immediately on attaining office.

It may be they are willing deceivers from the beginning, or it may be that they are gradually corrupted over time as they reach successively higher offices and the price of Party support rises with each step they take on the ladder of power.

Whichever it is - and it is likely both in most cases - we see clearly in the sheer monotony of this pattern that the Party system itself is the primary corrupting agency. It is the source of selectorial favours, of public relations favours, of funding and other support (e.g. oratorial coaching, speech-writing expertise, etc).

Most significantly, the Party machine is the mechanism by which the money lobby purchases political influence. It is the conduit through which funding flows from vested interests into the public offices they seek to pervert in their favour.

It is the avenue through which influence flows into legislation, into executive political appointments, and into judicial advancement. In other words, the party machinery is the vector through which the pursuit of financial self-advancement has infected every branch of government.

None of the above is especially surprising or noteworthy, particularly to those who've been paying attention to politics and political systems for some time. But the implications of these two simple ideas – that our political systems are both thoroughly corrupted and thoroughly corrupting – most often escape notice, or at least public comment.

It is hardly surprising that the ardent supporters of Barrack Obama have themselves been most surprised by the ever-lengthening list of betrayals of his campaign positions (and thus the principles on which they rested). It is somewhat more surprising that even his most determined critics have been surprised by the scale and content of this list. Particularly in the areas of civil liberties and domestic welfare, where he was quite rationally expected to deliver real progressive policy, the Democrat Obama has been markedly worse than his Republican predecesssor, Bush.

If we look at the British situation we find an odd contrast allied to an even stronger congruence. Here the Conservative candidate Cameron campaigned on rolling back the national security over-reach of his Labour predecessor Blair. He vigorously talked up the necessity for doing so in the interests of a free and liberal society such as is necessary for a modern liberal democracy to prosper both materially and spiritually. This seems, at first glance, like a very strange contrast to Obama's campaign, given that Cameron's Conservative Party is the UK's equivalent to George W Bush's Republican Party, and therefore we might expect Cameron to sound more hawkish on military and national security matters than Obama. It appears that the labels have been flipped, or the players have changed sides.

However, the apparent paradox is resolved when we note that, rather than presenting any kind of real change in policy relative to Tony Blair's Labour government, Cameron and his coalition partners continue to pursue the War on Terror abroad and its associated domestic tyrannies with every bit of the blind stupid zeal of its original architects.

In very similar manner to Obama, they have in fact doubled down on the domestic tyranny front, copying play for play the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers, on journalists, and on any public dissent against authority.

The striking parallel is further emphasised when we consider that George W Bush himself could have used the very same speeches made by the candidate David Cameron, seeing as he campaigned on a humble foreign policy, no nation building adventures such as those of Clinton, and tight fiscal responsibility.

If you go further back and look at Tony Blair's campaign speeches you find a strikingly similar pattern: a vigorous denunciation of the financial profligacy of the previous government, of its thorough corruption through an extended hold on power, of its foreign policy blunders and domestic tyrannies.

Rather than changing sides, what this shows is that the players are all on the same side.

But while this cries out for public analysis and comment, I have not found any.

In the 90's UK a corrupt Conservative government is opposed by a crusading Labour Party candidate who rails against its many injustices, thefts, authoritarian aggressions, and habitual over-reach.

In the 90's USA a corrupt Democrat government is opposed by a crusading conservative Republican candidate who rails against its many injustices, thefts, authoritarian aggressions, and habitual over-reach.

After the successful candidates disastrously embrace and extend the worst excesses of their predecessors, the two parties change sides and:

In the USA a corrupt Conservative government is opposed by a crusading Democrat candidate who rails against its many injustices, thefts, authoritarian aggressions, and habitual over-reach.

In the UK a corrupt Labour government is opposed by a crusading Conservative candidate who rails against its many injustices, thefts, authoritarian aggressions, and habitual over-reach.

And, after these successful candidates have disastrously embraced and extended the worst excesses of their predecessors, what kind of deal will the voters be offered next?

Does one have to be Norman Einstein to predict the character and tone of the next election campaign in each nation?

It is plain from these examples (and the many many similar examples before them) that the Parties in each country long ago perceived their voters' weakness for the Man on the White Horse theory of politics. For the messianic figure, and the associated sugar daddy fantasy-mythologies of the secular salvation story.

What this means is that we as voters must grow up and stop pursuing these fantasies if we actually want real change, in a positive direction, to ever happen. We must abandon the Cult of Personality and all its attendant baggage, if we are ever going to build any kind of liberal society such as we say we want.

Some of this we will not enjoy. Some of it we will steadfastly resist.

For example, we will not like the idea that our favoured candidates are corrupted long before they're presented to us as candidates for high office. We will readily accept it of the candidates we typically oppose, but we will not want to accept it of those we've typically supported.

We will not like the idea that the individuals concerned are largely irrelevant to the process. The fact that corrupt political parties employ corruptible candidates to advance their own interests is as dull and unsurprising as the fact that hospitals employ doctors and fire departments employ firefighters. But we're very emotionally wed to the idea that the individuals are important. That their personalities, character, individual beliefs, and moral principles, are vital aspects of their campaigns and thus to their anticipated manner of government once elected.

(We will stubbornly resist acknowledging how devastating the pattern described above, of constant betrayal of every such avowed principle, is to this notion.)

We will especially resist even contemplating how this reality affects our interpretation of past events.

As difficult as it will be for many to accept, however grudgingly, that such a pattern clearly exists and that its existence unequivocally shows that Obama has not been turned after his election but has been a willing tool of corruption for many years prior to his ascendance, and that his individual character and personality are almost totally irrelevant to the policies pursued by his government, it will be nearly impossible for these same people to acknowledge that historic individuals like Hitler and Stalin were equally irrelevant to the policies pursued by their governments.
(Just think about that for a moment. Let it sit awhile.)
We might be persuaded to admit, grudgingly, that the secular salvation story of the Man on the White Horse is a childish myth that we should abandon if we want to grow up as citizens and construct truly liberal systems of government, but we will never be able to abandon it if we cannot simultaneously let go of its mirror image, the Man of Sin of the secular Devil Incarnate story.

To relinquish one is to relinquish, by logical necessity, the other.

To hold to one is, necessarily, to hold to the other.

No doubt I should point out here that I am not defending Stalin and Hitler. They were not nice people, and they were not well-intentioned or naive or misunderstood. 

They were bloody tyrants

The point is, so too are Cameron and Obama.

So too were Blair and Bush.

Neither their penchant for expensively tailored suits, nor the mechanism by which they achieved power, has any bearing on that fact.

They were, at some point prior to their selection as candidates, thoroughly corrupted by the thoroughly corrupt Party machinery that enabled their political careers. That they may or may not have been heinously corrupt individuals prior to this selection is utterly irrelevant.

As doctors are to hospitals, as firefighters are to fire departments, so are the corrupt and corruptible to our political parties. If the parties are the root, the candidates are the branches.

The salient fact is that if Buddha or Jesus were to enter into the same processes that gave rise to these political careers, only two results would be possible:
  1. They would fail to make the necessary accomodations, and be rejected, or
  2. They would compromise themselves and become indistinguishable from any modern candidates.
Indeed, what Obama and Bush both demonstrate - albeit in dramatically divergent fashion - is that the better the raw material, the smarter and more telegenic and charismatic the candidate, the more effective the tyrant he becomes.

So this is what we face; two-party systems that are thoroughly corrupt and thoroughly corrupting. In sum, the party machines of the modern democracies have become self-perpetuating engines of destruction, deceit, and despair.

They must be destroyed, root and branch.

As above, there are only two possibilities open to us; either we destroy them or they destroy us.

Either we find and found a better system that is protected against the corrupting influences presently assaulting our civilisation and attendant liberties, or those influences will continue to erode the foundations of our civilisation until it no longer exists.

Already much has been lost.

How much more we can lose before the course we are on becomes impossible to reverse without widespread long-running bloody violent revolution, I cannot say, but I strongly suspect the answer is, not much.

There isn't that much left.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Corporate Terrorism is Legal; Journalism is Not

From a recent Guardian piece on the ongoing David Miranda oppression:

The detention of the partner of a former Guardian journalist has triggered fresh concerns after it emerged that a key reason cited by police for holding him under terrorism powers was the belief that he was promoting a "political or ideological cause".
Also noted in that piece is that the security services asked the Police to detain Miranda, and to make it look like a 'normal' event (whatever that means in an era when it is normal for liberal democracies to murder remote strangers on a weekly basis).

But the key element of the Police representation is that David Miranda qualifies as a terrorism suspect because he is engaged in promoting a political or ideological cause.

Now for those who've been saying for many years now that the US government and its many-tentacled agencies are the world's biggest terrorist organisation, this might come as a somewhat ironic validation, given the source and the surrounding context.

But the people who work in the State Department might also wonder what will happen to them next time they visit England ... or simply pass through on the way to elsewhere.

On that note, I recall that it was the USA that began the assault on international law & custom in this matter, unilaterally repealing the established practice which recognised that a person passing through "in transit' and not entering the country via Customs, is not actually on local soil for legal purposes and not subject to the jurisdiction of the local Police forces but remains under the jurisdiction of the captain of the aircraft.

In other words, a political refugee could not be returned to those who would persecute them simply by means of a refueling decision made in some airline head office half a world away. There was a time when our governments claimed that this was an important principle.

But, in time-honoured imperial fashion, the satellite vassal states almost immediately adopted the same practices, with most of the subsequent differences - as in the case of the UK - being only to make things worse.

However, we all know - as do, no doubt, the people who work at State - that they're not going to encounter the same problems Miranda did. As his partner Glenn Greenwald has rigorously highlighted, the law in our modern liberal democracies operates in a neo-feudal two-tiered manner; there is one law for the wealthy and powerful and those connected thereto, another for the poor, powerless and unconnected.

It is plain, too, that the Chief Executive of Nissan Motors knows this. Because here he is, without a shred of irony or indeed apparent awareness of any kind, flagrantly threatening his British employees and the entire United Kingdom, should they pursue a political course he finds distasteful:

The head of Nissan has warned the car maker would reconsider its future in the UK if a push to leave the European Union succeeds.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of the Japanese motoring company, told the BBC his company would re-evaluate its position if the UK were to leave the EU.
Before anyone asks me if I am surprised - I'm not - there's no real mystery about the utter silence and inaction of MI6 and GCHQ in response to this blatant act of international corporate terrorism. Such threats are par for the course for those with wealth, power, and the political patronage that goes with them.

But I would love to hear them try to explain exactly what the difference is.

Perhaps if there are any journalists still working at the Guardian, one of them might be persuaded to ask?

Tell you what: I won't hold my breath.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

A Quick Response to Russell Brand at the New Statesman

In his recent New Statesman editorial Russell writes very eloquently and perceptively and humorously ("it's long, there are jokes") of the rational apathy of most citizens toward their political process:

There’s little point bemoaning this apathy. Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people.

Apart from the implication of that "no longer", which I will get to in a moment, this is a worthy point and, imho, an accurate and useful insight into the declining political participation rate in all the self-styled liberal western democracies.

Where it really humps the mako, though, is this bit:

A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve.

Yes, it is true that we're all sent to government-designed schools that teach us government-mandated curricula, that tell us of our glorious government-approved democratic history and how the wonderful system of government we have today - about which we've just agreed few of us give a shit, so indifferent is it to us -  was designed to serve us.

The problem is, it wasn't.

It is not true that the system was designed to serve us, and nor has this ever been true.

The system was designed to serve the designers of the system, and that wasn't and isn't us.

As wonderful a document as the US Constitution is, it was designed by a handful of people to serve the interest of their own class: the very narrow class of white, educated, wealthy, privileged land-owners.

It still does this today, as it has done since 1789.

As great as the ramifications of the Magna Carta have been for the English speaking peoples of the world, it was designed by a handful of barons to serve the interests of barons. They never intended it to apply to their serfs - their property - and could not imagine that it ever would.

In spite of the progress that our fore- fathers and mothers wrested from the cold bloody hands of their lords and masters, it still serves as the public relations theme for a system that ignores us in between trampling on us.

(It's interesting that in every other context in which these barons are discussed, other than the Magna Carta, they're referred to universally as "robber barons". Only when the great charter is the subject are they, somewhat idiotically, revered for accidentally betraying their entire class by using overly ennobled language in their mutual-defence pact with the divinely appointed Monarch.)

You can tell that the system was designed to serve the interests of those already wealthy and powerful enough to impose their wills on the design, because that is what it has always done. If you only look at the fact that it does this today, you might naively conclude that it's original intent has been somehow perverted, that slowly the corrupting effects of power have twisted the original design into its present malign character.

But if you look into history you find that the system has always served the interests of the few, the designers - the Deciders, as then-President GWB styled himself and his class - at the expense of the many.

There are corrupting effects of power - the 'interests' of the powerful are growing, they are individually and collectively becoming more ruthless and less reticent in their use of the system to extract wealth and power from us all, but the nature of the system remains unchanged.

Its purpose, the principles of its design, the character of its operations, remain unchanged.

If you're going to be a radical, and strike at the root of the political corruption in our society, then you're going to have to give up the authorised history you've been taught, along with the implicit allegiance to the system that taught it to you, which goes with that history.

It's kind of a package tour.

Isn't that exactly the message of your own refusal to participate in the sham of voting?

Why then participate in the sham of a history that never happened?

Anyway, not to carp; the rest of the article was superb. Even where I disagree with you on some minor point, I applaud the passion and the perception that went into it. The fire in the heart is unmistakable and very welcome.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Global War of Eco-Terror

As I trudged through the snow* on my way to work this morning, contemplating the eternal verities, and/or the notion that there’s only a few more years until we never have any more snow (depending on your pov), I thought of you guys.

I pondered how I might explain to you precisely how and why you’ve been suckered by the Global War of Eco-Terror. I thought the Global War of Terror might make a useful stalking horse. Just like the Global War of Terror, the Global War of Eco-Terror has consequences directly opposite to the objectives claimed by its proponents.

You see, on the one hand we have this enormous military power, the United States of America, which has divided the world into satraps, vassals, and enemies-du-jour. Its military regional command structure explicitly states that it has interests it must 'defend' in all parts of the globe. There is nothing that happens anywhere on the entire planet that is not somehow its business.

Its notion of 'defense' is adventurous to say the least; brutal, bloody, and unrecognisable to anyone familiar with Webster’s but unfamiliar with American Realpolitik.

Ranged – nominally – against this barbarous behemoth is Al Qaeda, a ragtag assemblage of the fanatical, the foolish, the frustrated and fraught families and friends of the victims of our first protagonist. Its resources are few, its military capabilities non-existent, the threat it presents in statistical terms similarly invisible; both in terms of other threats to the life of the average westerner (more likely to be stung to death by killer bees) and in terms of the demonstrably global and indiscriminate lethality of its enemy (which has incontrovertibly killed millions during AQ’s brief existence, to AQ’s highly-disputed hundreds).

The first openly states that global domination is its sole objective and prerogative; the aims of the second are far less ambitious.

The first openly threatens defectors and dissenters with pre-emptive nuclear attack, and is presently at open war in 6 or 7 sovereign nations; the second has not managed an unqualified successful terror operation in over a decade (perhaps longer [?], depending on who or what you believe about 9/11).

But, ignoring the many orders of magnitude of distinction between these two parties on every quantifiable dimension, our political class has managed to successfully sell the narrative that the first is benign, benevolent, and beautiful, while the second is deadly, dangerous, and despicable - in the words of the idiot hordes, an existential threat to all of western civilisation.

Many many people [claim to] believe this narrative, although it is patently untrue, obviously concocted for pure political purposes, and frankly stupid.

The other pungently relevant detail is what a friend of mine calls the “X ... therefore, tyranny” game. The answer to any problem, any threat real or imagined, any decline in our own wealth (relative or absolute), or any perceived public issue whatsoever, is always to hand more power over to the people already abusing it for their own larcenous ends.

Al Qaeda ... therefore, tyranny.

Poverty ... therefore, tyranny.

Unapproved drugs ... therefore, tyranny.

Ecological damage ... therefore, tyranny.

Biodiversity loss ... therefore, tyranny.

Crime ... therefore, tyranny.

Public debt ... therefore, tyranny.

Dissent and disobedience ... therefore, tyranny.

Shonky elections ... therefore, tyranny.

We were attacked by persons unknown ... therefore, tyranny.

Any feckin half-saleable excuse whatsoever ... therefore, tyranny.

Our governments are not the only people running this kind of 'David & Goliath ... therefore, tyranny' scam.

Monsanto, for example, like to crack on and on about how they’re genetically engineering an end to famine. Problem is that what they’re actually doing is trying to corner the market on food crop reproduction, and to achieve this they need to create artificial scarcity. For this to work, their genetically modified frankenfoods have to be the only available option. (That’s how a good capitalist arsehole maximizes return on investment, don’t ya know?). So, what they are actually aiming at is to create a global famine. It's the same principle as above: submit or die. Pay or starve.

The pharmaceuticals are in the same racket. They like to crack on and on about healthy living and life extension, but their shameless bribing of doctors, at the expense of public health funds, to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics, is creating killer bacteria resistant to every-fuckin-thing. If we don’t hang some of them soon they’re going to kill us all. Their bird-flu and swine-flu scams are not only the same game but interact enthusiastically with many governments also playing the same game, using the same invented pretexts.

Both of these examples are predicated on the same bullshit scenario peddled by our governments. In response to a problem which is either (A) largely illusory, and/or (B) the direct consequence of prior political/economic idiocy – in other words, in response to problems that shouldn’t exist anyway – they’re busy making even bigger problems and calling them solutions, seeding the ground for the next cycle of the same narrative exploit.

They spend enormous marketing dollars to scare up the small problem, and to minimise the larger problems they’ve created as ostensible solution thereto, just so they can kick the can down the road a few feet and continue playing the game. There are many other examples of this practice that you can identify if you start looking. The Left / Right major parties in every western democracy play this exact same game within the larger game, using each other as the scary dangerous problem to be solved, and themselves and their own policies as the lethally stupid but nominal solutions thereto.

Coming back to the Global War of Eco-Terror, otherwise known as anthropogenic global warming / climate change / extreme weather events / bullshit label du jour: the relativities are exactly aligned. There are massive, serious, ongoing, and visibly-degrading-as-we-speak environmental and ecological problems in our world. A lot of them we have caused and we are making worse every day. Many of them are the consequence of irresponsible industrial practices that would make Mephistopheles blush. Few of them are getting any public attention because the overwhelming narrative, and thus the overwhelming attention capture, that is being blasted at full volume across the planet, is global warming. But global warming is a crock. It’s a fake alarum designed to distract from the real issues and secure further tyranny (and funds, of course). It is a fantasy concocted with deliberate malice aforethought, designed from the ground up to defraud the general public and enrich the few.

There simply isn't any evidence that global warming is presently outside of normal variation, nor that increased warming would be catastrophic, nor that damaging the technological underpinnings of our civilisation would do anything effective to avert the predicted ecological consequences.

These are just the elements of the narrative being used to stampede us into giving more power to our abusers.

And it is manifestly working.

It is not working for you and I, of course, who are merely the suckers paying for it.

It is working for the same clique of political shysters and industrial robber barons that the left / liberal / libertarian / progressive axis rage against every day. Funding in the tens of billions and global political power is flowing towards the centre and away from the periphery, as a direct consequence of the global warming hysteria.

Cui bono, mofos?

Bullshit mumble bullshittherefore, tyranny. Here's a classic example, from a comment at the Guardian:

@TheGreatBarzoni - I read Glenn all the time and come away ALL the time with the thought that he is the most eloquent formulator of thought on Constitutionally based civil liberties and due process I have ever read.
How can I think that, be a card carrying progressive and yet understand how someone like Dick Cheney (whom I loathed) or the President Obama (whom I love) infuses the presidency with extra judicial power in not necessarily the time of just any war but THIS war. Why is this different? It is different because the technological means exist and the US opposition is still patiently determined to certainly hurt and in a long term goal use any weapon it can to destroy our nation. Now if you love to argue ideological ideals while Washington and our nation burns as our opposition would simply love to do, then fine. But I would prefer that this nation survive. I am rather fond of breathing thank you very much and love this country with all its flaws. I think President Obama saw when he took office just how great the threat really is and it is HIS job and his alone to protect the nation. What did Cheney say? The Constitution be damned...well I do NOT say that exactly but I DO see a kind of expediency and unitary power of the executive at certain times that few see while behind a computer sitting in a nice warm house with the electricity running.
Do you know, can you realize what it would mean for our nation's foes to get their hands on devices which send a chill down my spine? I am sorry but I think so far at least the president has kept us safe. ... I hope. Am I sure? Hell no but I surely hope he has and will. I LOVE our nation's Constitution and its civil liberties for all crimes EXCEPT those crimes where the subject is dedicated to the eradication of our way of life.
I know some of you were, just a couple of years ago, commenting in Greenwald threads that the gulf oil spill could wipe out all life on Earth. I bring this to your attention here, not to embarrass you but simply to point out the additional parallel between the manifestly idiotic chicken little fear expressed in the quoted text above - that all western civilisation stands in peril of destruction from terrorists - and the same fear-driven emotional excess you displayed in that time.

Your fears are being manipulated, multiplied, and used against you. And some of you, some of whom are otherwise intelligent, thoughtful, and benevolent people, have allowed this to happen to you. It is not that your concern for our environment is wrong - we are certainly not taking care of it as we ought - but that your concerns are being manipulated, multiplied, and used against you.

Al Gore is not your friend; he is an integral part of the same system of which the Obama administration is merely another part. The UN is not your friend nor protector. It is, too, merely a part of that same system. The IPCC is not trying to save the world, merely feathering its own (temporary) nest. Nancy Pelosi is not saving the world, she is a part of what is destroying it.

We are being distracted from real and immediate dangers by high-volume, constant, raging noise about dangers that are remote, illusory, and/or invented.

Please give this some consideration. Note the parallels I have drawn. Ask yourself if there could be any merit to this idea. Dont take my word for it. Check it out for yourselves. Do the leg-work, read the material, and think about the evidence.

If nothing else, you will at least have some understanding of how I see these things. Maybe we could start a conversation from there ...

[*written earlier this year, as an intended response to a Guardian CiF comment]

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

SSA Question for KTFW

Thanks. I am thinking specifically of the special issue securities used to replace actual money in the SS (ahem) lock box. Any idea? The treasury issues them, so would a gov agency underwrite them, would a bank underwriter, or would the trust itself, in this case SSA?
The SSA refers these questions to the Bureau of the Public Debt (part of Treasury), which refers to the FFB (Federal Financing Bank, est 1973(!)) and to the Monthly Statement of the Public Debt, and associated FAQs. Treasury also provides a monthly statement on federal trust funds, including the Federal Old Age Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the same for the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund. These seem to indicate that the securities are issued directly by Treasury and that they form the total of fund assets (or close enough to it as makes no odds). i.e.
make up 2.660 trillion of a total assets of 2.667 trillion for the FOASI Trust Fund, and and 103.8 billion of a total assets of 104.5 billion for the FDI Trust Fund. These are occasionally referred to as special securities, but their special nature is (apparently) only in the conditions under which they are issued, and who is authorised to issue and purchase them, and not in their backing. Like other Treasury-issued securities they are backed by the "full faith and credit of the US government", whatever that is worth.

In turn, Treasury raises funds in the open market by the sale of notes, bonds, and etc ... as you know.

According to them, these - currently totalling 16.9 Trillion - are owned about 1/3 by the Fed (i.e. the banking cartel), about 1/3 by foreign governments/investors, and about 1/3 by "private investors", the vast majority of which are large domestic financial, insurance, and retirement fund businesses.

As far as I can see, like so many things that started in and around 1973, the whole thing works as a giant machine to redistribute wealth upwards, but under the guise of insuring your pension. The federal government is now owned by foreign governments and big businesses, by the largest international banks, and by domestic big businesses, about 1/3 each.
"The borrower is servant to the lender"
-Solomon, King over Israel, ~950BC
Hence, the current state of congress, the executive, and the courts ...

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Terror of Forbidden Thoughts on the War on Terror

"Again and again, just when you think you’ve reached maximum possible cynicism about politics, you discover that, actually, you haven’t been cynical enough. It’s almost always worse than you think."
"I admit that at this point one of my biggest concerns was to avoid coming off like a crank. After all, if I got quoted sounding too much like an NSA conspiracy nut, my colleagues would laugh at me. Then I might not get invited to the cool security parties.

All of this is a long way of saying that I was totally unprepared for today's bombshell revelations describing the NSA's efforts to defeat encryption. Not only does the worst possible hypothetical I discussed appear to be true, but it's true on a scale I couldn't even imagine. I'm no longer the crank. I wasn't even close to cranky enough."

I've recently been involved in discussions about our thoughts, and the mental filters we operate, and how they operate and how they change, and what this means for changing the way we think about and/or perceive our world.

The connection to my two opening quotes will – I hope – become clear later, but before that I want to go into a little bit of discussion about our mental filters. It is a simple fact that our minds are constantly bombarded by far more information than we can consciously process. Our senses are always active, even in sleep, but when awake they receive a staggering volume of information every moment. To allow us to function in *real-time* as it were, our minds operate filters that act to remove or de-intensify relatively unimportant information and highlight important information.

This, plainly, leads to the question of what is important? The answer is that what is important to me is what is allowed to penetrate my filters and be perceived most clearly by my conscious thought processes. We see this very obviously in the purchase of a new car. Prior to our ownership of the particular model we have purchased, we dont really take much notice of them. They are simply background, grey noise of little import to the progress of our lives. But upon purchasing a particular model, suddenly we begin to see them everywhere. We never realised there were so many of them! Because our ownership of that model has made the peculiar shape, colour, and other features of that vehicle important to us. Our mind is responding to a basic idea: 'Mine!'

That idea has tuned our mental filter to permit entry to, and highlight, that peculiar set of information which identifies my car.

You also see this highlighting effect clearly when driving your new car. When a tattooed Hell's Angel approaches the intersection at which you are waiting to cross, you never pull out in front of him. Your mind has automatically highlighted him as dangerous and therefore important to note and avoid. By contrast, when Mr Bicycle Clip approaches on his daily commute to his accounting firm, you tell the judge 'But I just didnt see him!' ... and this is literally true. Because he's not dangerous and he's not your husband/brother/father, he is unimportant. His very existence did not penetrate the mental filters that allow you to operate your car without killing yourself.

The most pertinent aspect of these mental filters is that they are, themselves, invisible to us. We see only what they allow through, but we do not see them. However, if by deduction or education we become aware of them, we are able to deliberately and consciously tune them to desired parameters. Driver training programmes of the 'defensive driving' sort, for example, are partly effective because they tune our mental filters that relate to self-preservation while driving, towards a more immediate sense of the negative personal consequences of careless driving (even if those consequences are only of the emotional kind, e.g. guilt for having negligently harmed another).

These meanderings connect to our opening quotes at the level of social politics. Here too I believe we have been conditioned by the operation of filtering mechanisms that do not permit certain subjects, ideas, thoughts, and questions, to be publicly perceived and therefore, discussed. Further that, because these filters are largely invisible to us, we are (A) not often aware that we're being steered like cattle, and (B) not able to avail ourselves of the same capability to adjust the filters according to our own priorities, that we have on the personal level.

Further, and most pertinently and dangerously, that too many of us have too often failed to perceive the momentous lacunae in our collective informational input, and have thus internalised these filters to such a degree that many actively resist any attempt to show us ideas or ask us questions that relate to what is being blocked from our view.

Many are, indeed, irrationally yet implacably hostile to these efforts.

In this article I will ask a few questions that illustrate this concept in action. I got to thinking about these questions because of the foregoing train of thought, which fortuitously (maybe) combined with the foregoing quotes. It occurred to me to wonder why is it that even the most whacked out fringe nutjob conspiracy theorist 9/11 truther Ron Paul supporters dont ask these kinds of questions? What is it that is beyond our most cynical and cranky imaginings that is nonetheless true?
  1. How is it that the CIA, the most practiced torturers in the world today, can accidentally torture one to two hundered people to death?

  2. Is it really plausible that two hundred people could be tortured to death, by the world's most experienced torturers, accidentally?

  3. How is it that they can also disappear the video of their torture sessions, against the orders of a federal judge, and still few wonder what was on those tapes apart from evidence of the crime of torture itself? (A crime they have admitted repeatedly in other contexts.)

  4. What if those people are dead because the CIA wanted them dead, and including them amongst their torture victims was the most untraceable means of doing it?

  5. What or who was in Fallujah that it was treated to the most ruthless and barbaric destruction of a civilian population centre, by a developed nation, in modern times?

  6. What or who was in Fallujah that held information the occupying forces would go to such criminal and inhuman lengths to erase?

  7. What if the deaths by torture were not accidents, what if Fallujah was not a tactical error in the 'fog of war', and what aspect of the War on Terror would account for all of these events if they were not accidental or incidental but deliberate and connected?
Pondering these question brought to mind the different fates of two television series: Fox TV's '24' and 'Firefly'.

24 was blatant torture propaganda, lovingly designed and produced to acclimatise Americans to the notion that torture is justifiable in an extreme enough scenario. It fit perfectly into Fox's political prejudices. It ran for 8 tediously tendentious seasons.

Firefly was an altogether different animal. It was defiantly subversive – 'I aim to misbehave!' - and anti-authoritarian; raucous, intelligent, individualist, and revolutionary. It was cancelled after one season.

Interestingly, perhaps the most subversive idea of all appears only in the film ('Serenity') made by writer/director Joss Whedon with his own money, because he wanted to finish the story he'd begun in the series. Speaking of 'the Reavers', the perversely brutal humans who stand in the place of the modern terrorist archetype for the narrative purposes of the story, the pilot says:
'they made them!'
This is the dirty secret the central government doesnt want everyone to know. That the deaths of millions, and the creation of brutally murderous enemies of all mankind who have to this point been the cover for the government's own over-reach, all trace back to the government itself. They made the thesis and then used it to justify the antithesis.

This is the truth that burned up River Tam's brain, that launched a thousand agents and a million missiles …

Firefly/Serenity and 24 were all fictional. The selection, the training, the funding, the arming, and the design of Al Qaeda were in fact all done by our own governments. Mostly the US government, but with witting and unwitting assistance from others in the self-styled 'western liberal democracies'.

That is not even controversial. What is controversial is to question the narrative claim that the US ended its alliances and entanglements with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden at some point during the early 90's, and that it neglected to treat them seriously – or to treat with them at all – until after 9/11.

What if all these events, including 9/11 and its even more horrific aftermath, were all connected at the level of deep politics?

Please bear in mind that the above discussion does not purport to answer any of these questions, only to ask them.

But these are questions worth asking. Is it really credible that the world's best intelligence agency kills people in the hundreds by accident? Is it really credible that the world's self-styled policeman destroys a civilian population centre in a remorseless and criminal fit of pique, without plan or purpose? Is it really credible that the same SEAL team that ostensibly murdered the worlds most wanted fugitive during the commission of an act of war against a sovereign nation, and dumped that man's corpse in the ocean under cover of darkness, themselves died in an accident a few months later?

Is it really credible that there is no connection between crimes committed by the same government(s), in pursuit of a single unvarying objective; ultimate power and global dominance?

Are we so conditioned to believe that the criminals that run our governments are inept, stupid, clumsy, or incapable of learning, that we cannot even attempt to consider other explanations?

That not even the most extreme political weirdos among us are asking these kinds of questions, let alone the more respectable dissenters?

As long as the filters remain invisible to us, it is the filters that control us, and not we ourselves.

When intelligent, educated, insightful, articulate, and independently-minded commentators, not bound to the government but hostile to it, still keep making the same errors, something is going wrong.

When they consistently and repeatedly underestimate the sheer criminal malice of our governments and their agencies, something is going wrong.

Some critical piece of information, somewhere, is being hidden. Suppressed. De-intensified. Filtered.

Dont be afraid to seem like a conspiracy nut, to those who are blind and senseless.

Dont be afraid to ask questions, the answers to which are the stuff of nightmares.

Only by confronting the true state of things can we ever hope to change them for the better.

I aim to misbehave.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Freedom of Speech or Freedom of the Press?

There's a lot of misinformation and disinformation being spread about the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. Before discussing that, here is the text itself:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

--From the wikipedia entry
[Please note the semi-colons that identify the clause boundaries]

Establishment journos like to pretend that the first amendment defines a special and protected class of people - "the press" - to which they belong, and which is privileged with immunity from government prosecution.

On this basis, they like to disparage outsiders as not being a part of their privileged club membership, and whenever controversy embarrassing to the government arises they like to subtly and grossly establish the people responsible as being outside of this club.

So they propagate and perpetuate these ideas;

(1) that they belong to a privileged class, that they call 'journalists', and

(2) that people who write things they dont like because these things (A) reveal their own craven pretences to journalistic endeavour, and (B) embarrass their powerful friends and protectors, (C) cannot be members of this class, and

(3) that there is some set of criteria in the 1st amendment that identifies real journalists, and

(4) that the common people cannot possibly qualify, or

(5) even understand.

Needless to say, none of these are true. In the context of the first amendment, the freedom of "the press" is appended rhetorically to the freedom of the people. The freedom of the press to publish (i.e. to speak) is a subset of the more general freedom of the people to speak. It logically depends and proceeds from the more general case. It is freedom of speech as it applies to a particular circumstance - that of publishing information unpopular with the powerful - and not a newly minted or peculiar freedom which applies only to a newly-defined class of people.

Nothing in this amendment establishes the press as having any peculiar freedoms not already recognised as inherent in 'the people', nor as a class of jobbers separated from the people by any peculiar characteristic of their employment, vocation, or privileges.

Nothing in this amendment identifies any criteria by which one can be said to be part of the press or not part of the press, a journalist or not a journalist.

Indeed, the very notion of such a class existing, and being recognised by the framers of the US Constitution, is risible. An outrageous fabrication having no relation either to reality nor the political sentiments of the authors of that worthy document.

The only - the sole, singular, and most profound - characteristic that is mentioned in this amendment, with respect to the freedom of the press, is speech.

The freedom of the press is the freedom of speech.

In other words, the freedom of the press is the freedom of the people to speak.

It is the freedom of the people to publish abroad that which the powerful would prefer were not widely known.

It is the freedom to speak that which the powerful would prefer remain unspoken.

And that is all it is.

And that is enough.


Further Considerations on the First Amendment:

It is plain that the government and the establishment press have common cause in this fabrication. Each profits from their obscenely incestuous relationship.

The government has a class of tame pontificators at beck and call, eagre to widely publish its most absurd claims, and/or whitewash its most profound crimes.

The establishment journos have powerful allies, who provide lucrative sinecures for the faithful. Like the political class they're supposed to be investigating, establishment journos become celebrities in their own right.

One notes that no members of congress have proposed a bill to provide financial support to Wikileaks or Glenn Greenwald so that these can continue to perform their chosen vocation in the public interest.

But they have several times attempted to pass a bill providing financial support to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and similar enterprises whose owners regularly rub shoulders with the powerful, whose reporters go to absurd lengths to not upset the powerful, and whose business models are - perhaps like their political leanings - grounded in the 16th century.

One last point: the clauses in the 1st Amendment are important pointers to meaning and thus, to intent. Language is, after all, supposed to facilitate communication. Its conventions exist for the sake of clarifying meaning.

But perhaps the most profound issue relating to the Bill of Rights is only implied in all these kinds of debates, about what a particular clause in a particular amendment means, 250 years after they were written.

You see, the Bill of Rights faced some very strident and principled opposition. From the very first, certain parties to the composition of the Constitution wanted such a thing included, so as to clearly delineate the rights of the people. Others opposed this on the grounds that the people had clearly delineated the powers they had expressly delegated to the government, and therefore all remaining rights, powers, and privileges remain the property of the people themselves, as the Constitution states.

Further, the opponents argued that setting out such a list of rights would necessarily lead to the government later claiming that the list was complete and comprehensive, and that therefore anything not explicitly in the Bill of Rights is not a right the government is obliged to recognise and respect.

Sad to say, the opposition had it right on this matter. Not only have successive governments argued this very thing, but today the government applies to the people the very principle that the people applied, in the Constitution, to the government.

That is, whereas the people affirmed that the government has only those powers explicitly delegated to it, and the people retain all other rights and power, express or implied, the government now claims that anything it is not explicitly prohibited from is within its proper power to do, and the people are confined to only those rights expressly delineated in the Constitution (and then, only to the supreme court's modern - and often, woefully misguided - and restrictive interpretations of those rights).

As Glenn Greenwald notes, what the government does is supposed to be public. It is not supposed to have secrets from its employers, the people. But the government now tries to keep everything it does secret from its own employers.

In contrast, what private citizens do is supposed to be private. We are supposed to have secrets and we have a right to keep them private. But the government now tries to pry into everything we do, so that we have no privacy whatsoever.

This is what the words mean. Public = known to all. Private = known only to a few.

Our governments have turned democracy on its head.

Our governments have turned language on its head.

Our governments have turned meaning on its head.

Our government have thus turned our world upside-down.

We need to remind them that it is not their world, it is our world.

We need to remind them that it is not their language, it is our language.

We need to remind them that it is not their democracy, it is our democracy.

Now would be good.

From coramnobis, easily one of the most erudite and trenchant commentators making regular appearances on Glenn Greenwald's Guardian column, comes this very pertinent response:

@ScuzzaMan 01 July 2013 10:35am. Get cifFix for Firefox.
The freedom the press is the freedom of speech.
Indeed, and your point is well-taken that "the press" as a group of persons -- the "Fourth Estate" -- is only a secondary meaning, and certainly not a privileged class. Again, to reiterate a point the Court was long since aware of, it's the published product, not the publisher or the reporter, that matters.
I've made this point before but it's worth repeating again, esp. as Glenn has to confront the popinjay-pundit set more and more. Who the hell are they?
"The liberty of the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. These indeed have been historic weapons in the defense of liberty, as the pamphlets of Thomas Paine and others in our own history abundantly attest. The press, in its historic connotation, comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion."
-- Hughes, CJ., Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 (1938)
(my emphasis added in italics. coramnobis' original emphasis in bold)

That latter sentence bears repeating, for it strikes directly to the heart of the freedom of the people to speak, and the pretensions of the modern press corps to a privileged status as the handmaidens of power:

"The [term] 'press', in its historic connotation, comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion."

Thanks, coramnobis.
UPDATE: Friday, 13th September, 2013

Senate Judiciary Committee passes 'media shield law'

This is not a shield law. The press, as described above, requires no additional protection to that already contained in the 1st Amendment. Let me quote the text again:

"Congress shall make no law ... abridging freedom of speech, or of the press"

There cannot be any need for further protection under this text. There cannot be any ability to provide additional protection when these words do not constrain the federal government.

This new law allows the DoJ to force reporters to name sources, under threat of Espionage and Treason charges, merely by invoking "national security". Considering all the crimes our governments have committed in the last decade alone, under the auspices of "national security", is there anyone deluded or dishonest enough to claim that they can be trusted with such an exemption?

If there is, they plainly don't understand the very basis of the Constitution, which is explicitly based on an innate suspicion of all power.

There is a very old political pattern of attempting to destroy a human activity by first regulating it while claiming to be protecting it, and secondly squeezing it until there is no part of it not submissive to the "protecting" authority.

Dont let your government repeat this pattern, against the freest press in modern times ...

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

For ondelette

A while ago the conversation at CiF, on Glenn Greenwald's column, turned towards war and the ending thereof.

Ondelette made the point that wars always end by the parties to the conflict talking to each other.

That is an unpopular view in some quarters, especially the more jingoistic, but it is nonetheless true.

So I thought that, if he/she is out there listening, they'd be interested in the news that the Taliban are meeting with the  Afghan government to discuss peace.

(Reuters) - Afghanistan will send a team to Qatar for peace talks with the Taliban, President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday, as the U.S.-led NATO coalition launched the final phase of the 12-year war with the last round of security transfers to Afghan forces.

I realise you probably know this already, but I thought it meet to affirm it publicly.

You were and are absolutely right on that point, and it is proper to acknowledge it openly.

Monday, 17 June 2013

CiF madness

The Guardians crew of part-time hairdressers and otherwise idle children of the management, today deleted this comment, which was made in reply to someone parroting the establishment line but claiming to object to sweeping surveillance, on this article.

The piece of my comment about hubris was not aimed at the OP, but at our governments.

Not sure if that was clear to the OP or to CiF's immoderate moderators, but anyway, here it is:

so please dont try painting me as some government apologist/right wing crank

Doing a pretty good job of that yourself, mate.

On the subject itself, well, as Osama bin Laden used to say:

I love the smell of hubris in the morning! Smells like ... victory.

So, that was it. Horrific, isn't it?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

You've failed, your highness ... I am a Snowden ... like my father before me

What follows is a post I made at The Guardian's CiF section, on the article announcing the identity of Edward Snowden as the man responsible for the most consequential whistleblowing in recent times, the release of highly classified NSA documents relating to their sweeping data collection practices.

I reproduce it here as an act of purest ego. It is a comment of which I am unreasonably proud.

It is also, in my opinion, a very important point, pertinent to all of recent history in ways none of us fully apprehend as yet.

(for presentation here I have added some emphasis to various phrases, and made use of blogger's simpler linking mechanism to add additional supporting links)

My grandfather (my father's father) was wounded on the beach at Gallipoli. He lived through the experience only because he was so incapacitated he was unable to prevent flies from laying their eggs in his wounds. He told me that many of his fellow soldiers who were less disabled died from gangrene as a consequence of covering their wounds. He walked with a pronounced limp all the rest of his life.

My father served in the New Zealand Scottish Regiment in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, in North Africa, Italy, Germany, and after the war in Japan. He died relatively early, from conditions the New Zealand Ministry of Defence concedes were partly related to injuries sustained during his active service.

I say this as preface because many people will otherwise misconstrue what comes next.

Although such men served, as do so many today, in the ardent belief that they served the forces of liberty and civilisation, and opposed the forces of tyranny and barbarism, this belief cannot be substantiated by reference to our documented actions as nations, or to the facts of history, or to any sensible assessment of human behaviour in the light of self-interest.

It exists now only in the political rhetoric used to goad naive young men and women into recklessly and ruthlessly attacking each other for the profit of others who are already immensely wealthy and powerful.

Let's face it squarely; they would not otherwise go to war so readily if they were not convinced that an existential struggle between good and evil required it. If they were told the truth - that such wars are fought for power, for the personal aggrandisement of repugnant political and industrial operatives, for the purposes of acquisition: and always have been - they would not cooperate in such numbers.

If we are to learn from history, we must first shed the self-serving versions of it we were taught by the victors in these wars, and that we still tell ourselves. We must learn to look at history dispassionately, only as human beings and not as nationalists. We must learn to discount the ego-defences of the victors as being unreliable sources of truth.

I say this as the son and grandson of the victors; men who in my experience were sincere and devout in their belief in the rightness of what they set out to do, but far less so after having done it.

One of my favourite authors, Iain M Banks, died the day this story exploded across the newspapers of the world.

He had this to say:

. . . "in every age and every state, there has seldom if ever been a shortage of eager young males prepared to kill and die to preserve the security, comfort and prejudices of their elders, and what you call heroism is just an expression of this fact; there is never a scarcity of idiots."
~Iain Menzies Banks, "Use of Weapons" [1990]

As Dave Allen used to say, may your God go with you.

"Blessed are the peacemakers"