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.