US Citizens: Wake Up

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 22nd, 2011

If people were paying attention, they would already know things have gotten pretty crazy in the world regarding civil liberties. This is just a really blatant example… how clear does it have to get before people notice? (Presumably, when they are shipped to a secret prison…)

Your Money or Your Rights

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 17th, 2011

There seems to be a steady erosion of civil and personal rights: surveillance without warrants, erosion of free expression, removal of habeas corpus, extra-judicial killings, police brutality, privatization of intellectual, and cultural material and so on. There is also a stagnation or worsening of living standards and social mobility. When I debate these issues, people often mention that we cannot afford civil rights, given the turbulent economic situation. The time for civil rights is apparently when “the economy has recovered”. However, when we return to a stable (or bubble) economic conditions, people don’t have as much need of civil rights, since everything seems peachy, and they are moved off the political agenda. So when is the time for civil rights?

We are presented with a false dichotomy: go along with pro-monopoly, pro-totalitarian laws (under the guise of being pro-business) or face economic ruin. In other words, surrender your civil rights or starve. Given the prevalence of consumerism, people choose “bread and circuses” over seemingly abstract speech and political rights. However, much that we agree is worth protecting is based on those very principles of the rule of law, checks and balances, habeas corpus, free exchange of ideas, and various other enlightenment ideas (although many of the ideas originated well before then). Once you kick out the foundation and hand power over to a police, theocratic or fascist state, there is nothing stopping some authority figure taking whatever you wanted to protect in the first place and you won’t have any recourse.

Arguably, we already have lost our connection to these foundations and handed over political power to banking technocrats. Oh well. I take comfort in the sentiments expressed in the US declaration of independence.

Anti Citizen One

PS Looking back at this, I notice a certain similarity with Klein’s The Shock Docrine.
PPS Despotism Circa 1945

The Wicked Witch is Dead

Posted by Anti Citizen One on May 5th, 2011

With the US killing its most recent enemy, I am reminded of some obscure pop culture, the game Red Dead Redemption. (I often think the philosophical aspect of computer games is under rated!). The protagonist is forced to hunt down the state’s public enemy number one: Dutch van der Linde. When cornered, the Dutch states:

When I’m gone, they’ll just find another monster. They have to, because they have to justify their wages.

And so it continues…

AC1

PS “I’m not a great intellect, but…the metaphysical leap from liking the flower to shooting a man in the head because he doesn’t like the flower…is a leap too far.”
PPS I like this “football” t-shirt

Wikileaks

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 6th, 2010

Why do news agencies repeatedly report the various condemnations of leaked information being publish, without challenging it? As I understand it, the documents released are done in partnership with the news agencies themselves – and if there were any blame, they are at least as responsible as wikileaks and Julian Assange! The news agencies should stand up to this indirect criticism, which is effectively governments criticising the freedom of the press. The press tacitly acknowledges it things the information is in the public interest; otherwise they wouldn’t have published it. Perhaps this defence has already begun as the International Federation of Journalists has issued a statement condemning the backlash against wikileaks.

I found Hillary Clinton’s condemnation of the leaks is very ironic. She is responsible for that information. If that information leaks, lives would be put “at risk”, at least according to her. So that information should be carefully controlled. This information was not sufficiently protected – as shown by the recent leak. She is therefore negligent. Governments should learn that electronic records held in a database are at risk of abuse and unauthorised access. They should be distributed and properly secured – the weakest link is the human – particularly if there is no one who “watches the watcher”. Or as wikileaks puts it:

Big brother is watching. So are we.

I am apparently in a minority that agrees with wikileak’s stance – freedom of information is more important than saving embarrassment of politicians and civil servants. Accurate information is essential in a healthy democracy – voters need information to be informed. If politicians don’t like this, “if its too hot, get out of the kitchen”. Unfortunately, governments are generally interested in releasing information that fits their agenda. The “dodgy dossier” springs to mind. Freedom of information is too important to be left to the politicians. Admittedly, diplomacy has historically involved keeping secrets. Tradition is not, in inself, a reason for secrecy. A possible compromise between the need to protect negotations while satisfying the need for transparency: a 12 month limit on secrecy of documents would enable people, who would often still be in office, to be held accountable. Government practices, including mass surveillance, secrecy, large central databases and assuming new powers are all typical methods for centralising power. We need to challenge the assumption that centralising power and control is always a good thing.

Anti Citizen One

PS http://213.251.145.96 is their current IP
PPS The previous batch of leaks was similarly claimed to put lives at risk, but more recently, no evidence has been found of that was available that lives were lost.
PPPS.

PPPPS. Julian Assange has been arrested. I regard this as pressure applied to individuals that undermine state power. Hopefully he doesn’t end up like David Kelly. As JMS wrote:

Your credibility has become a threat to their credibility.

Chomsky: Perilous Power, Media Control

Posted by Anti Citizen One on June 19th, 2010

I reread Chomsky and Achcar’s Perious Power. The format of the book is a dialogue between these two intellectuals, which was subsequently polished and with addition of references to sources. It is a wide reaching examination of the middle east situation and international policy. Chomsky’s usual method is applied: examine a leaders rhetoric and then their actual actions to see if there is any discrepancy. He argues that the stated goals of western powers to bring democracy and human rights to the middle east is contradicted by a long history of hypocrisy in that regard. Of course, this continues today with various countries bullying Iran. Chomsky returns to a recurring topic: the most obvious definition of terrorism implies that the US and allies are the worst terrorist states. For example, Iran might have significant human rights problems and possibly threatening to use military power (although this was probably political grandstanding, not actual policy) but compare that to the US, UK, Israel who go far beyond threats and actually are militarily aggressive and have an overall appalling human rights record. The list of specific instances is too long for me to detail – just read this book! (or The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein). Until the US cleans up its act in human rights and military aggression, and its allies stop being accomplices to this acts, I place very little stock in the current US/UK military adventures.

Here are a few general ideas, they might want to consider to actually get back on track:

  • Military forces should be used as the last resort. The democratic route should be preferred. The rhetoric states this is policy, but clearly it isn’t.
  • Don’t perform military actions in other countries or kidnap people across boarders (“rendition”) – this undermines the rule of law. Drone bombings are extra-judicial killings. (US 14th Amendment – due process and all that)
  • Highlight human rights abuses then they are conducted by our “allies” (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Russia, Pakistan) and not just by our “enemies” (Cuba, Iran, China). (Remember when Canada listed the US as a country that practices torture? The truth hurts.)
  • Replace military forces in occupied countries, particularly if against the popular will, (Iraq, Afghanistan, Tibet) with a UN force or withdraw completely.
  • Stop support (military, economic, diplomatic) to countries that occupy territory by force or use disproportionate force (Israel by US, North Korea by China)
  • Prosecute people who order or perform torture. (This applies to all countries, and it is where Obama’s credibility evaporated from my perspective.)
  • Encourage resolution of occupied territories – this could be achieved in Palestine by the US if they had the will. (See the US record on UN resolutions with respect to Israel)
  • Pay reparations to countries that you messed up with military action, supporting coups, etc. (Most colonial powers and the US would have a long list of candidates here.)
  • Don’t use collective punishment on countries using sanctions or military action (did someone say “war crime”?). (US on Cuba, US on Iran, US on just about everyone, Israel on Palestine.) This is taken to an extreme when countries elect the “wrong” government and are punished in consequence. Don’t ignore governments with popular support just because they are distasteful. (Hamas)
  • Prisoners are to have fair trials in civilian courts or the Geneva Conventions apply. Also the UDHR applies. In all cases, coercion should not be used.
  • Ban nukes.
  • In short, cut the double think and hypocrisy.

Oddly, most of these are already law or have been discussed many times at the UN. Unfortunately very little will be done until other issues are resolved: dependence on oil, the influence of businesses on politics and reduction of propaganda. I also read Media Control, which is more of an introduction to all of the above. It is very short – more pamphlet length than book length and not hard to read (in fact a bit too light compared to his other works).

Anti Citizen One

PS Chomsky always gets me in the mood for Rage Against the Machine: “I am the Nina, The Pinta, The Santa Maria”!

Thoughts of a troublesome priest

Posted by on January 19th, 2010

I’ve recently been reading a biography of Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, a Polish Catholic priest who became chaplain to the striking Warsaw Steel workers in the early 1980’s. He was to become heavily involved in the Solidarity movement (the first non-communist controlled trade union federation) providing spiritual guidance and material assistance to prisoners and dissidents and their families particularly in the repressive period of Martial Law between 1981 and 1983 imposed by the Military Council of National Salvation (the cadre of Polish and Soviet Army officers who enforced totalitarian military rule on behalf of the Polish Workers Party). The Solidarity movement, which although quickly banned survived underground and eventually became the first democratically elected government of the post-soviet Polish Third Republic, was comprised of an unusually broad range of political positions including persons associated with the Roman Catholic Church (socially conservative) and the anti-soviet Left.
The Church though severely restricted was not virtually wiped out as in the Soviet Union and as a consequence provided one of the few public forums for political dissident gatherings. As a consequence the Solidarity movement acquired a non-violent character. Fr Jerzy’s sermons which lead to his numerous arrests and interrogations by the secret police became major sources of political inspiration to the Solidarity movement even when it was forced underground.
The religious aspect of the Solidarity movement could be described as a theology of liberation (though distinct from the Marxist inspired Liberation Theology of South America) and recieved public support from the Polish Pope John Paul II.

Here follow some interesting quotes from Fr Jerzy.

“Love cannot exist without justice, love outgrows justice but at the same time it finds reaffirmation in justice…
And justice means acknowledgement of the rights due to each individual; fair pay for honest work, with no fear of dismissal or demotion for holding personal views concerning the good of the nation. Justice is the equality of all citizens before the law. Every court must be free and impartial…
Justice means pluralism for trade unions, and for creative groups which were promised under martial law. Justice would allow young people to form their personality according to models chosen by themselves and not those officially imposed upon them…
These are the fundamental features of a lawful government:
1. The government must play the part of a servant towards the nation…
2. The government must always follow the truth and justice…
3. The government should create happiness for all, asking from each individual only what he or she can give, without any kind of coercion…
Any government which has no means of implementing its policies other than the use of force is not a government but a blasphemous usurper, and the people are as defenceless as an unarmed man confronted by a highway robber. Even if this man were as innocent and as holy as Christ Himself, nothing could save him, neither his religion nor the law nor any moral norms. The cry of Abel only arouses the fury of his brother Cain. You cannot expect anything good from people who do not respect your dignity or freedom.”

Fr Jerzy was kidnapped and murdered in a bungled operation by agents of the State Security Police in 1984 and only after massive nationwide protests were the officers responsible (including a Captain Piotrowski) tried and imprisoned for murder. However as a wry Polish national joke observed at the time “Question: Why did Piotrowski get twenty-five years imprisonment? Answer: One year for killing Father Jerzy and twenty-four for messing it up.” the popular belief since reinforced by documentary evidence is that the order came from high up in the government in order to silence this “turbulent priest”.

Quite aside from the religious imlpications of his words I am often reminded of them when considering the role that the state plays in the governance of our own country today.

Tony Blair Supports War for Regime Change in Contravention of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 12th, 2009

Speaking on BBC One’s Fern Britton Meets programme, Tony Blair was asked whether he would still have gone on with plans to join the US-led invasion had he known at the time that there were no WMD.

He said: “I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat.” BBC

In case any world leader reading this blog has forgotten what it says:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. Charter

Anti Citizen One

Recent Criticisms in Politics

Posted by Anti Citizen One on August 17th, 2009

I noticed two news stories that really “grind my gears”. Firstly, the case where MEP Daniel Hannan called for the abolition of the British National Health Service. The government’s health secretary commented:

“I would almost feel… it is unpatriotic because he is talking in foreign media and not representing, in my view, the views of the vast majority of British people and actually, I think giving an unfair impression of the National Health Service himself, a British representative on foreign media.” Andy Burnham

Now, I find it odd that he presumes that politicians may not to talk to journalists that are from beyond the UK and also that politicians may not disagree with public opinion. And to voice disagreement with public opinion is “unpatriotic”? Very worrying signs… (hello, thought police…) Perhaps it would be better for Andy Burnham to stick to the topic of discussion without resorting to name calling.

A second case concerns David Miliband and his comments on Joe Slovo, a South African anti-apartheid activist. When asked if violence (or “terrorism” in the parlance of our time) could be justified in some circumstances:

Presenter Matthew Parris asked Mr Miliband: “Are there circumstances in which violent reaction, terrorism, is the right response?”

Mr Miliband said: “That’s such a hard question, ‘right’ has to be judged in two ways doesn’t it? Whether it’s justifiable and whether it’s effective.

“I think I’m right in saying that one of the ways in which the ANC tried to square the circle between being a movement of political change and a movement which used violence, was to target installations rather than people.

“The most famous ANC military attack was on the Sasol oil refinery in 1980. That was perceived to be remarkable blow at the heart of the South African regime.

“But I think the answer has to be yes – there are circumstances in which it is justifiable, and yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective – but it is never effective on its own.”

He went on: “The importance for me is that the South African example proved something remarkable: the apartheid regime looked like a regime that would last forever, and it was blown down.” BBC

He has come under fire from various sources, including William Hague, for apparently condoning terrorism generally. This is an instance of the slippery slope argument (and an appeal to consequences). But “violence is necessary in some circumstances” is as true as any other statement I care to think of. History of all peoples and places are full of illustrations that this is the case. To claim otherwise requires a total lack of the historical sense and gross double standards.

For example, Churchill planned civilian and military suicide attacks in case of invasion of the UK (Their finest hour, Winston Churchill, p149). Another case is the firebombing of Dresden and the use of atomic weapons against mainly civilian targets. Also the French resistance to Nazi occupation using sabotage and assassination. Attacks are called “terrorists” by one side and “martyr”, “liberation” or “freedom” fighters by the other. Chomsky and others questioned if states are capable of terrorism? Or even is there an agreed definition of terrorism? No, often there is not, because this would implicate many military operations/actions as state terror. (And “operation” is another case of “words as weapons” – implying they are competently and justifiably applied.)

Anti Citizen One

Before the Law

Posted by Anti Citizen One on June 18th, 2009

A man from the country seeks the law and wishes to gain entry to the law through a doorway. The doorkeeper tells the man that he cannot go through at the present time. The man asks if he can ever go through, and the doorkeeper says that is possible. The man waits by the door for years, bribing the doorkeeper with everything he has. The doorkeeper accepts the bribes, but tells the man that he accepts them “so you won’t think you’ve neglected something.” The man waits at the door until he is about to die. Right before his death, he asks the doorkeeper why even though everyone seeks the law, no one else has come in all the years. The doorkeeper answers “No one else could gain admittance here, because this entrance was meant solely for you. I am now going to shut it.”

This is a condensed version of Kafka’s “Before the Law“, taken from Wikipedia.

Thought Police in Britain

Posted by on May 8th, 2009

My attention has just been drawn to this controversial article written in The Australian by Hal Colbatch entitled “Thought police muscle up in Britain“.

I call it controversial mainly because the incidences it describes are obviously being discussed across the world. It is also controversial because the cases mentioned are extremes and often the over zealous applications of well-meaning laws (i.e. equality and diversity laws). But I believe the points he makes are accurate.

In describing Britain as a soft Totalitarian state he concludes his article with the following:

“Any one of these incidents might be dismissed as an aberration, but taken together – and I have only mentioned a tiny sample; more are reported almost every day – they add up to a pretty clear picture.”

Do we citizens have cause for concern?