Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Human life is too important to let police take it with impunity

Today there is a trend which is dangerous to human life, and the safety and legitimacy of police. 809 people have already been killed this year by police. Police have increasingly been trained to act confrontationally, to hold the public at bay and to escalate situations; they more readily use force, often upon a public which is not threatening. Prosecutors and judges frequently treat flagrant crimes - everything from assault to murder - as legal uses of force. But this is not making police safer, it does not improve their effectiveness, and it is not legitimate.

I have my own ideas about how society should be organized, but frankly, I am not invoking them in this issue. I am not talking about the exploitation of labor or of the US imperial state because I don't need to, and its not really relevant (even though people like to Drag In The Kitchen Sink on such popular issues). We don't need a socialist revolution before things can change - the principles enshrined in our own government, and the rule of law, could save these lives.

A reasonable way to save lives:

1. Enforce the law.
2. Train police to act legally and legitimately as integrated members of the communities they police.

Police need to be held accountable where they are breaking the law. Of course this goes for everyone, but in the case of police, they are frequently not held accountable for their actions. The legislative and judicial policies which enable this undermine the rule of law; those polices are therefore destabilizing and illegitimate.

This is an example of checks and balances; where judges and legislators fail to enforce the law, and even enable dangerous police practices, they fail their mandate to uphold the rule of law and to act in the interests of the public.

Enforcing the law should be easy - those who do not commit crimes do not deserve to be assaulted or detained. This includes pepper spray and "kettling" tactics which represent assaults and attempts at escalation, respectively. It is lawfulness and de-escalation that legitimize policing.

Police should effect safer and more lawful conditions in society.
On top of not breaking the law, police should act to bolster their legitimate place as protectors and benefactors to society. This means police should be a part of their community - communities controlled by outside forces become resentful, reducing the stature, role and the effectiveness of police.

Officers who flagrantly violate the law set bad examples, and can make citizens fearful of going to them for help. Even actions which only target criminals, but are disproportionate, can chill citizen reporting of crime - if you expect officers to assault or even kill someone you report for committing a crime, a sane person will be discouraged from reporting the crime, especially if they are friends, neighbors or family members.

Police presence should reduce crimes, assaults and deaths. If that is not the case, the police do not have a mandate for their position, and/or the policies which govern police behavior and oversight are incorrect.

This is utterly reasonable, and a sane alternative to current practices. Removing dangerous people from society is not something that is increasingly dangerous in the US - quite the opposite - and it does not call for murders and assaults. And of course, this reasonable framework has already been hammered out - at a time when policing was undeniably more dangerous in the US.

Our police should be trained to act legally as integrated, helpful members of society - an attitude I have actually heard from police. Prosecution for crimes is, of course, not controversial. Anyone who disagrees with this is basically rejecting the rule of law, and founding principles of our republic.

I've met police officers who have surprised me with their generosity and who do not fit the bill of a "brutal cop"; many are not sadists and don't want to commit crimes. Maybe even discussing the basic role of police in society has its place, but I don't think it is here. Today we are confronted with a massive loss of human life which could be saved, and it shouldn't require major reforms.

This is not Revolutionary

Of course I don't think we will achieve justice and stability simply by these reforms. It is possible these policies will prolong an illegitimate state which does not extend democratic oversight to the economy (see the "marxist" Make Things Worse To Incite Revolution argument). However human beings are dying, today, when current laws and policies can prevent that.

It is plausible to say that loss of life in a revolution may occur, and we should not avoid revolution on account of that. But it is not legitimate to advocate for worse conditions, or unreasonably radical conditions, when a consensus-driven approach can save lives and improve standards of human rights.

Even if you think the state is illegitimate, the reality proves that a safer existence is a possibility, should people demand it in reasonable terms. Human life, human rights, and the possibility for a safer society based on heightened respect for individual civil liberties is worth fighting for, even if it is not a panacea.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Palestinians Demand huge Concessions - Survival, Rights & Non-destroyed Infrastructure

The rocket attacks from Gaza must stop. That is a fact of law (they indiscriminately target, mostly missing of course). It is also a moral and political fact. Human beings have a right to a life free of such attacks. The deployment of projectiles can make places uninhabitable, and kill many.

It is true that Palestinians have a right to resist occupation - and then, follow the laws of war. Within reason - if a law states they must leave their cities and homes and go to the countryside as an open target for Israel - no people can be expected to lay down and die, or accept occupation and a strangling blockade.

Guerilla warfare is urban warfare - and legitimate cases of human shielding, i.e. deliberately firing from facilities like UN Hospitals and Schools - have had next to no occurrence. While many cases, including photo evidence prove Israeli human shielding of captured Palestinians, there is next to no documented evidence of Hamas doing human shielding - and this is during the very wars in which that excuse was used by Israel to kill many Palestinians.

This wholesale destruction is leads to barriers to peace. The Palestinians do not get to ascend the skies and make the option of leveling Israeli neighborhoods. The primary barrier to peace is the deployment of projectiles against Palestinians, and all of the institutional and physical destruction that reduces their ability to develop peacefully, kills them, and engenders hostility among the survivors.

Any cost to resolve grievances, and the responsibility to stop the destruction leading to those grievances, is vastly owed by Israel. But that cost is actually cheap for the Israelis, because it is mostly paid by returning some Palestinian sovereignty that Israel didn't have the right to take in the first place.

There is human life lost, and we must hold those liable not to do it anymore.

That is a basic, reasonable principle. And its application means an end to Israel's vastly enumerated polices of occupation and destruction.

I propose that we stop both sides from committing crimes against the other, and respectively require that they cease making casualties and destroying things in the opposing territory. We should stop each of the the humanitarian crises existing there, and allow a state to flourish legitimately in each, etc., etc.

Where death, especially on racist terms, is the consequence of their policies, all of these administrations - Israel, PA and Hamas - must obviously change. In each case, it does threaten their legitimacy - which is more destabilizing where the economy is a basket case. External sanctions/actions may be reasonable - but the key, of course, if you care about human rights, is to address the most destructive institutional racism first, and insure that all populations have a space to exist, protected from the destruction wrought based on identity/territory.

Neither side has the right to make life hell, and destroy life for the other on an indiscriminate basis. That is collective punishment, targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. Those are all illegal acts. They make peace with such an actor increasingly hard. By some absurd stretch, the parties *broken away from Hamas' chain of command* can be said to do some of that to Israel.

But by and large, it is Israel committing these acts. Israel is literally destroying Gaza and stealing more of the West Bank daily. Israel has dozens of laws (on top of court rulings) that enshrine different standards for Palestinians. That is on top of their military and occupation strategies, many of which are also illegal. But most importantly, the choices Israel makes dictate these things:
-The grievances, and how extremely they have damaged either party
-The possibility for peace, inverted to the extent of grievances and their effect
Documented Theft

Unwanted Peace

Israel is making peace impossible. It is by and large Israel which must change - its policies, the crimes, etc.. All these metrics point to the fact that Israel is doing everything in its power to prolong the conflict: it is engendering bad faith, more destroyed lives, ruining the Palestinian economy so they cannot be independent, denying statehood bids while - toppling, illegally, the democratically elected government of Palestinian Territories. There is no stronger way they could send the message: "we don't want peace, we want a non-stable state actor on our border that cannot possibly represent a partner for peace, because we have made sure that the elected representatives are dead, imprisoned, dethroned.

But they have it in their own words. Today, NPR had a favorable review of Dennis Ross' new book "Doomed to Succeed" (the topic: his work on just this issue for the last 3 administrations). In this segment, Siegel agrees with Ross: "[during each peace process], the Israelis waffle, can't quite describe what it is that they really want." Ross says Israelis are afraid that, should they explicitly state what they want in negotiations, Palestinians will use that to ask for concessions that erode just what the Israelis would ask for.

However, Palestinians have provided unprecedented concessions. They have agreed to let Israel keep most of their illegal settlements in the West Bank. They do not ask for compensation for their incredibly destroyed economy (by blockade which limits basic needs, withholding electricity which kills and sickens, and by the consequences of materiel invested in destroying Palestinians and their buildings indiscriminately). And Hamas, now has repeatedly agreed to form a coalition with the PA, granting the PA most power, and recognizing Israel. Even though Israel will not even declare borders, they are granted recognition by the very state they have been seizing land from (an element of them "not telling people what they want" remember). What an unprecented set of demands to put at the door of the population who overwhelming bear the death, subjugation and thievery in the conflict. The refugees are likely to ultimately concede their legal Right of Return - a massive concession that provides Israel with a territory that does not have to consult, or allow in many of the natives to that state.

What must the Palestinians stop? There are "rockets" (which do some damage, and should not be used indiscriminately - lets be fair) but they do not destroy the Israeli government. There is not a delegitimized, non-state actor in Israel as a consequence of the Palestinians' actions (it is the other way around). The Israeli economy is not a basket case (the Palestinian economy is dire - bad in the West Bank, and at humanitarian-crisis levels in Gaza).

A small percentage of Israelis experience a skyborne threat, which has a psychological toll, a property damage toll, a human life toll, and yes, a grievance which impacts the peace process. But that does not cause damage at even a modicum of the rate from the repeated leveling of housing, hospitals, schools, mosques (73 during Protective Edge) and of course the other destructive policies which Israel illegally implements upon a people it has no right to control.

Apply the Law, Including Palestinian Concessions

That is actually the point. To make a safe area that each population can thrive in. We shouldn't have a hard task in front of us, though. There is no mythical, unknown formula to provide for self-determination and co-existence on a basic level. It means to follow the principle: neither side has the actual power to create a humanitarian crisis next door. Where this is most egregiously incorrect - fix it. Follow international law.

It's fair to say that both sides must improve on international law. Moving forward, both sides will need to change. That is true for all negotiations that are productive. In the context of this  conflict, it is almost exclusively Israeli action that chooses:
-what will be the conditions of peace (continue creating "facts on the ground" with settlements)
-when peace can actually start.

I say the second point for this reason: the actions committed against Palestinians not only delegitimize the Palestinian State, (creating the false "no partner for peace" narrative), they also increase grievances and create more hardliners in Palestine. Would you be a hardliner if your entire neighborhood was leveled? Most people I know claim violent intent at far less instigation. Abuse on such an extreme level is incomprehensible in how ugly a response can get. That is why racism is so common in such conflict zones.

Like in Iran during the Nuclear negotiations, hardliners are those elements of civil society that want no compromises. In Palestine, they will specifically reject the kind of compromises that the PA has realized it will need to give to placate Israel.

The rate of Israeli peoples being punished, killed and abused by Palestinians is absurdly low compared to the opposite metric - these barriers to peace must be stopped. Make the Israelis stop abusing an occupied people and thereby erecting barriers to peace. Make them stop stealing land, oil, water, and burning olive groves, leveling Palestinian heritage sites, homes, and institutions of all sorts.

Right to Live, Thrive

Palestinians need vast concessions from Israel. I say this truthfully. They are vast because they are the entire lives of the Palestinians. Palestinians demand that they are allowed to live and thrive. They want self-determination - at least what Israel and their state will allow them. These are vast

Those concessions can be provided to the Palestinians with comparably negligible cost to Israel. That is mostly in their stopping stealing. It would be offset with saved Israeli money, but the occupation is cost-negative for Israel. They profit from the occupation. That metric must change. And it further proves just how little Israel wants to stop their occupation. Which - like much of what Israel does to the Palestinians - is illegal. It is not needed for defense. It is a far stronger argument that Palestine should occupy and stop Israeli incursions and crimes against Palestine - that is what the numbers say.

It is not a lot to ask for, and it is that which any population demands of an occupier: let me live. I am allowed to live and thrive and be free. That is huge to the Palestinians - and it costs barely a bit. That bit is something the Israelis don't have a right to anyways: the sovereignty of the Palestinian Territories. The world is better served, more secure, and safer if Palestine is allowed a stable state and economy, safe from bombings and theft now customary under, and from, the occupation.

Prospects for Peace

Ross agreed with Siegel when he said that the Israelis are never willing to state just what they want.
"ROSS: Right. And there are conversations with Henry Kissinger and Abba Eban in 1971 that is almost exactly the same as the conversation the Hillary Clinton had with Bibi Netanyahu in 2011. The reality is that the Israelis are always afraid that if they give us a bottom line, when we go to the other side, it won't be good enough. And then we'll come back to them, and we'll say, sorry, not good enough. And so they hesitate about going down a slippery slope."
The Palestinians have exactly this problem - the difference is that their dire situation demands that they make concessions by giving away their rights - the right of return, and the lands, water, buildings etc. that Israel already has taken illegally. The Palestinians have offered to let Israel keep what it has illegally taken. Other losses, the loss of life and economy, can never quite be repaid, and will not see monetary compensation either.

That is what is reasonable. We should at least stop the destruction. Allow for legitimate representaion in order to negotiate with each population. That means Hamas at the table too - the current context has a detente between the PA (nominally Fatah) and Hamas, with recognition being offered. That is what Israel keeps saying they want - words. The real sticklers for peace? "The constitution of Hamas" and not "Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State." Well, Israel has not only not recognized the Palestinian representatives when they were elected, they destroyed the government.

Lets's set this standard: you can ask for your negotiating partner to stop taking something from you - i.e. they are destroying a state or an economy - those are legitimate grievances, quantifiable, and barriers to peace. There is no grievance when your complaint is just that the other doesn't "recognize" your state. Israel consults, and is bound by no Palestinian when it sets the laws of its established - legal land. Those are mostly the territories occupied before 1967 - but be clear, they will get to take more. Palestinians have agreed to that. Israelis need not make any such concessions - they are not under occupation from Palestine.

The mere fact of Israeli might does not allow for such disproportionate, indiscriminate and collective destruction. That is illegal regardless of purported prompt or goals for Israel.

Any policy which seeks to stop these crimes builds a path to peace. That is basic arithmetic.

2 (Image)
Further Reading: works from Norman Finkelstein, Noura Erakat, Noam Chomsky, National Public Radio (Morning Edition, All Things Considered, On Point), al Jazeera English and Haaretz are all quite instrumental to understanding the conflict. AJE reporting on Palestine Papers, and Amnesty Int'l / Human Rights Watch / B'Tselem provide good documentation of negotiations & abuses and barriers to peace , respectively.

Friday, October 2, 2015

US policymakers should face ICC trial over Syria, Iraq crimes

The US has assisted in efforts to destabilize both Iraq and Syria, including assistance for Islamists. That is not controversial. Whether the US at any time assisted ISIS or AQ is uncertain, but it is known that there have been concessions (see WikiLeaks cables on Syria), and it is likely that the early parts of these campaigns were abetting these groups specifically. It is certainly true that "shifting alliances" have meant that US support has easily gone to al Nusra and ISIS indirectly. The Sunni in the provinces controlled by ISIS have been under attack by their central governments, crucially when their militias were outlawed in Iraq. So aid given is somewhat fluid in where it ends up. The US still has a responsibility to insure that aid does not end up in the hands of terrorists.

Nonetheless, the explicit criminality of US intervention is known, too. Gaddhafi represents a dramatic example - the US literally paved the way for his captors, without any attempt to detain him for ICC trial. This was an affront to international law which the US made no attempt to hide. It deprived the world of important information, and a resolution to Gaddhafi's crimes, for victims and watchdogs.

I am not in Libya, Russia or Syria. The democratic deficits of US enemies are apparent (as are those of US allies). I am in the US - which is responsible for its influence and military presence, and which uses my name and others' to commit war crimes. That is quite a contradiction to our democratic principles. I don't think most US citizens would like to officially support war crimes, targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. I realize that it is easy, and not quite accurate, to give the US full agency when it comes to the worst outcomes it helps to produce. But that does not change its crimes, nor the responsibility thereof, and our responsibility, to stop such crimes done in our names.
International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism:
1. Any person commits an offence within the meaning of this Convention if that person by any means, directly or indirectly, unlawfully and wilfully, provides or collects funds with the intention that they should be used or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part, in order to carry out:
(a) An act which constitutes an offence within the scope of and as defined in one of the treaties listed in the annex; or
(b) Any other act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.
 (my emphasis)

Lets put this to rest. The usage of terror, directly or indirectly, and the treatment of human life as a fungible, consumable asset is illegal, immoral, undemocratic and illegitimate - whether in the form of Shock and Awe, Protective Edge or extrajudicial killings by drone strikes.

United Nations - International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Executing Ali Mohammed al-Nimr VS Enforcement of good-faith foreign policy

Corbyn has sent a letter to Cameron regarding the impending execution of a democracy activist from an oppressed religious minority (Shia) in Saudi Arabia:

This is what the US and UK claim to do with their massive support for oppressive states: lobby for better, more democratic and free conditions in their borders. But history, and Wikileaks, repeatedly prove that this kind of pressure is not exerted as a matter of course, but when the public scandal, or potential destabilization, becomes a threat to the relationship. And this is precisely the kind of policy the public should not be responsible for mobilizing to enforce, but should expect as a matter of course. The public cannot know each and every issue related to government policy; certain things should be natural for a democratic or humane state. This includes not using taxes extracted from a democratic political body to assist in imprisonment and execution of democracy activists.

Please keep Ali Mohammed al-Nimr in your thoughts (and prayers). What we can do - contact your congressional representatives and ask them to:

  • condemn the execution of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr
  • vote against aid, support, services and resolutions meant to assist Saudi Arabia should they go ahead with the execution
  • require that any future assistance be contingent upon good faith liberalization of Saudi Arabia's security and democratic institutions, and the more humane treatment of minorities etc.
The states that act as benefactors to Saudi Arabia are responsible for carrying out a democratic mandate consistent with its public policy projections. This means that, when the US and UK governments claim to act in good faith to improve democratic and humanitarian conditions in allied states - that should be true. The background reality proves that quite a different scenario routinely plays out - our governments take tax funds, and the right to represent us, as goods to be traded in the furtherance of favorable conditions for military presence and capital market penetration. This is not what their political mandate is for.

It shouldn't be our duty to enforce basic, humane and pro-democracy policy. No public has the time or resources to police its government at this level. However, that is usually the only source of power that will enforce these polices to exist in good faith.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

In human freedom

"In human freedom in the philosophical sense, I am definitely a disbeliever. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer's saying that 'a man can do as he will, but not will as he will,' has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others'. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humor, above all, has its due place." - Albert Einstein, "My World-view"

Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015: Pinochet offered a Nobel

Egypt's Al Sisi: 'I accept this award for all the death-squad-captains who couldn't be here'
It might be hard to understand how a dictator responsible of crimes against humanity, and even liquidating democratic institutions, can be promoted for a Nobel Peace Prize. Understanding the place  of dictatorships in geopolitics and propaganda provide a succinct, grim rationality for the absurd, Orwellian tactic.

In 2001, Augusto Pinochet - former general and dictator of Chile - was ruled "mentally unfit" to face trial over his role in anti-leftist death squads responsible for scores of killings. Pinochet was a neoliberal dictator who ascended in a CIA coup in 1973 against the democratic Chilean government, and the popular marxist Salvador Allende. Just 5 years after the ruling - a major blow to human rights, reconciliation and the rule of law - Pinochet's death eliminated any chance of a trial.

Allende was known for popular programs which gave children free milk and barred them from deadly mine work; forced child mining had persisted since the Spanish colonial era. In accordance with popular will, Allende nationalized the Copper mines, though against the wishes of his party (and popular opinion) he acquired the mines in stages, and fully compensated investors. Despite this, the US had active regime-change programs, crucially in the form of military aid to the faction that would overtake Allende.

The same strategy was successful in securing a pro-US, pro-Israeli, anti-democratic regime in Egypt. After the first democratic elections in Egypt resulted in the ascension of - unsurprisingly - the most popular political party in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Sisi led a military coup that enthroned him and imprisoned Mohamed Morsi. Morsi has been given a death sentence, and many other Brotherhood members were subsequently arrested, tortured and killed.

Allende's and the Muslim Brotherhood's credentials are actually unimportant to criticism of Pinochet, Al-Sisi and the CIA.While it seems less likely that the US played an active role in the Egyptian coup, longstanding US policy - which persists to this day - has still prevailed: the dominant force is the pro-US military, and this dominance means that there is not democracy, but dictatorship.

Illegitimate states

I'll admit that I was hopeful that the MB would take a softer approach to Gaza and be more resistant to Israeli demands to strangle them, but that is not my decision to make. It is also not for the US to make. It is ultimately for the Egyptian people to decide. A government whose policies sharply contrast with the interests or positions of its people has serious explaining to do, and short of legitimate, legal and humane reasons, governments have a responsibility to carry out the wishes of their constituents. It is certainly not legitimate to oust the president (whose power could have easily been countered), purge society of a political party (the most popular one, at that) and carry out killings to that end.

That is not advocacy of democracy. That is destabilization, criminal, on a massive scale. It promotes dictatorship, delegitimizes the state, and will likely make democratic reforms impossible for decades. The military can and will overthrow the government, and the "cat is out of the bag" - don't expect any leader to challenge them any time soon.

The electoral system in both states could have legitimized and stabilize the states, and created more pluralist systems. Those are among the stated, politicized goals of US foreign policy (though technical and internal documents usually disregard them). Overthrowing those systems and installing Juntas, is incredibly deleterious to society, creates illegitimate regimes, and their subsequent crackdowns involve murder. Continued US aid to the murdering regimes make the US complicit in those crimes, those dictatorships, and US diplomatic cover proves the ill will that the US government has toward people in those states.

Also note that illegitimate Arab dictatorships, powerful from US military aid, are frequently cited for their anti-Iranian government policies (though their populations frequently oppose these policies). It is an Orwellian embarrassment that in the Middle East, US-backed unpopular states and their unpopular policies are cited in defense of decades of crimes against Iranians. 

The Muslim Brotherhood had very little power even though it carried the democratic elections. The courts, firmly in the hand of Old Regimists, could have been selective in their rulings. They could have enforced a secular state to the hilt. They could have balanced with the MB to make sure that communities had the right to organize and operate based on tradition (so to satisfy Islamists somewhat) while insuring the rights of individuals, and other communities who have their own standards, or few standards at all.

What was chosen was not surprising - it is something Chomsky has pointed out to resonate effect. "If you want to overthrow a state, fund their military." You can see similar things in Thailand & Pakistan, and probably a lot of other states (Colombia, Turkey, S. Arabia) where "softer" revolutions have more quietly enthroned a pro-US clique with massive arms and dollar backing from the same. It can even be like a hostile corporate takeover.

Somewhere, somehow, a military coup could be a legitimate tactic if it somehow meant forcing a government to be more democratic or stop committing war crimes. It is plausible that there are situations where democratic institutions want to commit crimes against humanity, and it takes pushback from the international community, or other government cliques, to block those crimes. But the goals of these pro-US coups are aligned in precisely the opposite direction.

Death squads which have been fed CIA information are responsible for hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of deaths (see Suharto in Indonesia for a stark example; Colombia and Vietnam are also robust examples). The broader policies including those death squads (including the maligned counterinsurgency) are certainly responsible for deaths in the millions. The collateral damage of these campaigns even include US military personnel - be they addicted to CIA-transported Heroin from US-backed Laotian rebels to Vietnam, or the military dead involved in securing an undemocratic state which has given up key elements of its sovereignty.

Today's announcement would have one believe that these criminal, undemocratic policies are even worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize:
In a Sunday statement, the UNARTS office for Africa Middle East said the nomination comes as “President Sisi has been battling terrorism and combating the threat of violence in the region by changing the ideology of extremists and uprooting every idea leads to sectarian strife.” (Cairo Post)1
Crimes against humanity that go unpunished are laurels to be repackaged by the guilty party. Shamefully, this organization is undercutting its credibility by citing precisely those crimes as meritorious of a Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps this can explain away the indignity of such proclamations: The Act of Killing - a film which documents the utter pride that death squad members express about their involvement in the Indonesian politically motivated killings.

But then again, there is also such a victory in US foreign policy politics - these very tactics are usually packaged as democracy promotion. I wonder how many Prizes for the promotion of democracy would be on tap if the Canadian intelligence services gave the FBI information on every Republican Party member, and they were systematically rounded up and executed (like the Indonesian communists were with CIA intelligence). I'm sure the Canadians would at least support their government's "benevolent" meddling. They could at least justify the threat that US political parties can pose internationally on more legitimate grounds - US bases are uniquely ubiquitous across the globe.

Pithy observers might note that Obama actually received a Peace Prize - long before the Iran deal and Cuba detente, which, though multilateral, are the only acts of his that seem worthy of the prize. But I don't think this is simply the case of "smaller" criminals being treated with more nuance. There are two lessons to be learned from this absurd nomination: Big lies work better and Some human beings are not human beings. A good observer can parse this text to find reference to the Orwellian lies, and the Orwellian dehumanization is sadly documented to the magnitude of millions - daily updates can be found where the missiles fall.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Socialism is the only democracy

Capitalism is unsustainable. We are increasingly walking away from a state of existence where market-based value accumulation is viable for any kind of human society. Economic externalities (the adverse effects of your economic activity applied to other people or society) have always been a weakness of capitalism, and Adam Smith even pointed them out. Notably, he also supported the Labor Theory of Value and criticized unbridled power of those who accumulate capital as exploitation of labor.

-We are governed by a capitalism which has a right to destroy our planet, seems to be doing so with unbridled CO2 emissions, and this is unsustainable & illegitimate.

-The public should have the right to stop this capitalism, as its actions -committed by a minority, privileged elites- concern all of humanity.

Capitalism works to dethrone, and expel democracy:
On a spaceship, it is evidently criminal to exclude certain members from air, food and water rations, and the consequences of monopolizing even one of these goods - or having an unequal distribution in any way - are obvious. If the team even had a functioning democracy, we all know how any vote would go if one member could deny others any amount of these goods.

Voting with "dollars" or "feet" (walking away) is not democratic because it involves cost mechanisms which defeat free choice. Money is limited, and its magnitude acts as a barrier to acquisition of food, shelter, and other items which will consistently supersede our interest in having a free choice (especially as a lone voice) in a democratic system.

Time is also valuable; investing hours, months, or years in systems means that rational human beings will always have a threshold for when they will assert the right to walk away. Human beings are naturally not inclined to walk away (or to seek out problems with their economic lives - which is why meat production is allowed to literally disgust human beings at every stage, and yet remains so disgusting, for a product for which disgust would normally be a major marketing problem.

People don't want to know who suffers for their goods. Would you be eager to learn that you are paying for crimes - of any sort - when you buy certain products?
Chumbawamba - Sewing Up Crap

Capitalism defeats rational, deliberative human choosing mechanisms, especially inside democratic bodies. It is not based on the democratic influence of affected members of society, but on the power brokerage of a privileged elite. This privileged elite may specifically benefit from actions which harm the rest of society - such as increasing CO2 emissions. This also makes it an unsustainable system. Capitalism has no legitimacy as far as social consent and input, and is destabilizing at least socially and environmentally. In literally every instance, the socialist model breeds legitimacy, stability, and sustainability where capitalism breeds the opposite: capitalism means public decisions made without consent by minority cliques,  instability,  and industrial activities which threaten human life. The principles arising from socialism are also the principles which ensure a robustly democratic society. The socialist difference is simple: make the market also democratic, rather than dictatorial.

In a socialist system, the public, not the minority/capitalists, controls that which hangs over the public's head. It is rather obvious, too, that the public should indeed have the power to defend itself against acts of private power.

Socialism means the democratization of economic life. That is not without pluralism - you don't get to democratically decide that no-one can have chocolate; like in standard democratic/legal and civil standards, you only get to legislate that which impacts outside the individual actor. Socialism is legitimized by including all stakeholders - those affected - in influence over that which affects them.

Capitalism is a way to undemocratically distribute power. To enact a market, with legal precedent, to give away so much power that even Global Warming - possibly the literal destruction of the human race and other life forms - is a legally protected aspiration of private industry. Even when that industry is a minority among industries. That level of legal right to exterminate life is quite unprecedented. The only legitimate and stable alternative to dictatorial, capitalist economic life, is democratic, socialist economic life.

Communism, too:

Communism is (for most people) synonymous with this socialism, typically a form of the idea which is much more radically manifested. Most of the standards rely on the equal distribution of power (democracy) over industry. The extent of distinction between democracy and communism, among even the hardliners, is that in communism there is no longer a state apparatus to have a formal democratic system.

Communism is stateless and that is why communists don't like to use the term "state" to describe what they advocate. It is the ideal, humans can probably achieve, that makes a socialist way of life informal (and thereby social conventions are less onerous or inefficient). This is likely possible because people can and do act in concert with one another - to make stable social systems - by default.

Socialism is in some ways a point of concession toward communism. That could be because of the transitional phase of time. That could be because it is plausible to institute progressive taxation and worker possession of factories, but not the full reappropriation of past human production to solve shared problems (such as environmental catastrophe) before it becomes a toy for privileged individuals.

The communist is an archetype of the crazed, dictatorial statist - the very thing the capitalist aspires to be. Plainly, communist, not capitalist standards are at the core of democratic principles. The lack of public consent, lack of legitimacy by social approval, is the capitalist model.

The communist standard of power is simply put the democratization of power systems - necessary at a time when even our environment, and continued existence, may be immolated as a "tragedy of the commons" by abuses from industry.

Pluralism means "Society works for everyone":

In all ways, systems should be redesigned to better serve all members. Human social systems can and should be based on good-faith interactions with humans that lend themselves to improved outcomes. Deleterious effects which outcast members of society truly squander human potential, are less legitimate as they do not serve society broadly and in a pluralist manner.

Systems which doom members to homelessness or imprisonment represent squandered possibilities. They could instead leverage human desire to be accepted and serve them in basic, dignified ways, to stabilize their time in our society.

There is a possibility for society to be stable, sustainable and legitimate. In every possible case, the means of production are leveraged, and under the thumb, of all of the public. This also literally means that democracy defeats and expels capitalism as the model of design of society. Dictatorships(capitalists) are replaced by democracy(the public). That is plausible, and likely, because the mass of humans are able to act collectively.

1. Adam Smith - Wealth of Nations

Monday, September 7, 2015

Building illegal WMDs to defend from a decade-long bombing campaign

In reliable intelligence for Iraqi WMDs, Colin Powell believes he had a personal "red line," though the push for war with Iraq was a foregone conclusion. What is actually embarrassing to the Administration's legacy is that the lie - the scam chosen - was so easily falsifiable, despite the history of Saud/Gulf/US arming Iraq with heavy arms to kill off Iranians, and also despite the chemical war genocide commissioned by the US against the Kurds.

The mistrust that the US had for Iraq was so extreme, and so unfounded, that it assumed the criminal arms supplied in the past could not possibly have been completely disposed of, despite documented adherance to enforced standards. According to the preeminent US interpretation of events, a state constantly bombed by the US for 13 years after being a US ally would have been incredibly foolish to give up its weaponry on more than a token basis.

Consequently, the weaponry our victims are keeping to protect themselves from us will be found. They weren't. The real nature of the Saddam administration was one of concession.

In fact, the intelligence community is aware of a more revealing truth: US vassal states concede immediately and comprehensively (states under sanction often do the same, in order to lift the sanctions if possible). That is the documented finding of US handlers managing Pakistani government contacts. That is why states - with power ranging from Indonesia to Israel - concede to US demands, when they are given. Limited sovereignty can be achieved at great cost. It is almost never worth it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

On Gulf Cooperation Council's Understanding with ISIS

(Gulf Cooperation Council is imprecise shorthand for Saudi Arabia and aligned states such as Bahrain and Qatar)

I don't think there is GCC political will to fight ISIS. The anti-ISIS maneuvers have been anemic at best, where they have even existed. This was true before the Houthi coup which tried to change Yemen. Partially this is because GCC want to see Assad ousted, but they also want a resurgent Shia Iraq to be destabilized. Remember that Turkey has bought ISIS oil. And at least in the past, Gulf states helped fund ISIS.

ISIS is on some levels a continuation of the Iraqi regime that was trying to destroy Iran to solidify Saudi/Gulf dominance in the region (Iran/Iraq war). Remember there is some continuity from Baathist Iraqi elites and IS leadership today. The Houthi are a real threat to GCC states, but ISIS is at least composed partially of a GCC/Saudi ally - and remember the Saudis opposed the invasion of Iraq that toppled that ally.

I think quite a bit more is going on "behind the scenes" in the form of diplomacy (or at least calculation) by Gulf states toward ISIS. Even if there is no trust or communication line, there is an understanding - ISIS's existential threats are Shia Iraq and Assad in Syria - both allied with Iran. These are all Saudi enemies. Saudi Arabia is quite happy to have a Sunni thorn in their sides.

Moreover, ISIS is ruthlessly tactical (see leaked documents which show how ISIS used covert agents and power brokers to take over its cities). Tactical states in the region understand that there is a brutally rational core to ISIS which could possibly be negotiated with, or manipulated.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

On the Founding Philosophy of Democratic Socialism

Democratic socialism means a democratic system with socialized (community/worker) ownership of production. Sweden is actually less socialist in terms of ownership as private firms are more prolific than corporations.* Of course, the decentralizing effect of shareholder systems is not useful if those shareholders are not workers (i.e. why US corps are frequently evil and undemocratic).

Democratic socialism can exist as a capitalist enterprise, I guess, but I don't think it has to. I support a more extreme view: socialism, that is democracy (not so liberal, but more communitarian) - democracy that manages production, which is owned by the people as a political asset, in the way that we share ownership over parks and government buildings.

So the distinction between state and worker/community ownership is based on how well that state represents the interests of its constituents. But this is why "state ownership" as shorthand is wrong for "socialism." Socialism relies on the premise that democracy cannot function properly alongside exploitative/.coercive capitalist systems, so that community/worker ownership needs to be represented as the foundation of the economic democracy.

This is just the same as the notion that local government should not be asking industry to ratify a convention to keep arsenic out of our drinking water. The industrial capitalists have no right to that veto. They also shouldn't be able to veto the right to basic living standards in an age of such incredible productive power.

*Sweden has robust labor institutions which are much more effective than corporate institutions at legitimizing policy based on consensus building, specifically by negotiation with private enterprise.