One Law For The Rich

The sheer brazen effrontery of this corruption is breathtaking. Not just the banks’ corruption (15 years – in the case of HSBC – of criminal money laundering for drug cartels and terrorist groups) but the State corruption in the form of the decision that banks like HSBC are “too big to prosecute”. Oh, and don’t forget to ask yourself the routine question: why are you having to watch this on The Real News rather than mainstream media?

Few, if any, events in recorded history have so clearly illustrated not just the gap between the elite rich and the rest of us, but even the illegitimate means by which they are permitted and even helped to maintain their illicit advantages over civil society.

ANY criminal prosecuted, from now on, in any country where trial by jury is the norm, should now argue – direct to the jury – that whatever crime they are accused of cannot possibly be as serious as what the banks have been allowed to get away with for decades and that, if the banks can be let off with a token fine (less than a day’s profit), there can be no ethical case for any lesser prosecutions. Judges and prosecutors will, of course, try to resist that argument, but let’s see what the Juries decide…

Dawkins on good form at Al Jazeera

Can’t embed the video but that link will take you there. Mehdi Hasan puts up a good fight trying to expose weakness or prejudice in Dawkins argument. He fails of course, because what weakness exists in Dawkins argument is not one a religious believer is inclined to perceive or accept.

Hasan’s arguments, by contrast, were excellent illustrations of the weakness of religious argument, though far more coherently delivered than is usual. For instance, he challenges Dawkins objection to teaching children that their recently deceased friends, being of the wrong religion, will inevitably go to hell, where they will suffer in agony for the rest of time – a terrifying image which Dawkins argues is a serious form of Child abuse; arguably more serious even than ad hoc priestly sexual molestation.

Hasan’s attempt to undermine this “radical” position is to ask: “To teach children that there is one god, or that god created the world in 6 days That IS Child Abuse?”

If you want to understand the religious mindset, you need to understand why even intelligent believers – like Hasan obviously is – do not understand why his question is so badly off target.

But Dawkins, perhaps being uncharacteristically restrained, didn’t take the opportunity to expose the stupidity of the question. So let me try.

Dawkins actual argument is based on the anecdotal evidence of a 40+year-old woman who was both sexually and religiously abused as a 7-year-old, probably by the same catholic priest. He sexually molested her and, on learning that her 7-year-old (protestant) friend had died, he told her that the friend was condemned, by her protestant status, to roast in hell for the rest of time. She obviously didn’t consent to or enjoy the sexual attack but she got over it fairly soon after the event. But it took years for her to recover from the psychological damage caused by nightmarish visions of her friend burning in hell, planted in her vulnerable psyche by an evil priest.

Hasan’s first challenge to that tale was on the basis that, as an empiricist, Dawkins shouldn’t be relying on one-off anecdotes; which suggests that Hasan believes that the example IS a one-off, which would itself be an extraordinary belief. But then Hasan does profess a literal belief in the story that Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse and challenged Dawkins to prove that it didn’t happen, so his grasp of empiricism isn’t quite complete.

In any case Dawkins’ real objection, shared, I would hope, by ANY humane human, religious or not, is that putting nightmarish images into the minds of children who are not able to defend themselves against such literal psychological Terrorism, is a clear, unambiguous grossly indefensible attack and abuse of a young child. In contrast, telling them that Father Christmas is going to leave presents for them under the Christmas tree, though it might be as equally factually implausible as the visions of eternal hellfire and damnation, doesn’t do any HARM.

It could, of course. If the Santa Claus doctrine was applied with the same fanatical rigour as the hellfire and damnation meme, and, for example, children were made to learn the names of the reindeer by rote, punished for getting them wrong, and warned that anything less than total compliance with parental or religious instructions would result in Santa not just leaving them out of the annual distribution jamboree but possibly even sending nasty goblins in the night to take away some of their existing toys, then the Santa Claus fairy story could start to become as damaging as some of the classic religious fables.

Dawkins is making the charitable assumption that Hasan’s teaching of stories from the Quran is closer in spirit and effect to the Father Christmas end of the meme market than to the eternal hellfire end. I’m not sure I’d have been that charitable but it was an entertaining debate. I was particularly encouraged by the audience reaction. Two thirds agreed that just being taught catholic doctrine, as a child, was as bad or worse than being sexually abused by a priest. That’s a step in the right direction…

When did they make Public Sexual Molestation and Humiliation Legal?

This story OUGHT to provoke a wave of revulsion on a par with the reaction to the senseless slaying at Sandy Hook. Will it? Don’t hold your breath…

Full credit to the Daily Mail. I kick them often enough, but, as far as I could tell, at the time I came across this story, they were the only mainstream news source anywhere in the world to have published it.

Ironically (given it was their own dash cam which has implicated them) it illustrates the increasingly urgent need for Trusted Surveillance to record the criminal activities (or, I should say, “activities which, in a civilised country, ought to be criminal”) routinely committed by the Forces of Internal Repression

Citizen – Innocent Until Proved Guilty.
Authority – Guilty Until Proved Innocent.

I Was a Teen Conservative: How I Learned That Life Is Too Complex for Right-Wing Ideology | Alternet

I didn’t expect to get much from this Alternet article. but I was pleasantly surprised. Like some critics are saying about the new Hobbit movie, the slow start might put you off, but it's worth sticking with.

It is the "confession" of a one time freedom-loving Republican "conservative" who, as a teenager in the 60s, worshipped Barry Goldwater (whose attitudes then were close to Ron Paul's today) and thought he represented mainstream Republican ideals. Gradually, over the ensuing decades he realised that if that ever had been true, it was becoming less and less valid as time marched on.

Even as a 14 year old he had to swallow hard to accept Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights bill that finally made racial discrimination illegal. But the first major game-changer was the infamous Kent State massacre where students were gunned down by the National Guard while protesting, peacefully, against the Vietnam War:

To a Jeffersonian, the brandishing of state power in order to conscript people to fight in a faithless conflagration and then to oppress the right of assembly stipulated by the First Amendment was repellent.

He watched with growing alarm as the definition of “leftist insurrection” became protest against the war or in support of civil rights and, crucially (for students of the rise of American Authoritarianism) how the previous Republican focus on Liberty switched to Control:

…while the Jeffersonian conservatism that I signed up for gave the benefit of the doubt to freedom, a new conservatism now chose order.

Reagan’s 1980 election set the new trend in concrete and the Police State put down firm roots:

Under Reagan… the Justice Department paid a purposely ominous attention to what adults read and watched; the war on drugs grew more ruthless; cynicism about science, particularly as it had to do with the environment, grew more pronounced; antagonism to the freedom of women to make choices about their bodies grew more vehement.

He charts how the Republicans overtly sold their soul to Money and made explicit their religiously based control-freakery:

…three impulses distinguished the new right. The first was how the right’s enmity toward centralized state power was matched by an adoration of centralized corporate power. This constituted an abandonment of the principle of a truly free marketplace—with entrepreneurship and the flourishing of small business becoming more constrained and difficult — and the overarching principle of decentralization. The second impulse was the displacement of liberty as conservatism’s core priority by a new priority, “values,” by which the right invariably meant sexual behavior, predominantly the sexual behavior of women and homosexuals. The third new impulse was most profound. This was a reconceptualization of the republic as one in which citizens are bound not by a Constitution in which God isn’t once mentioned, euphemized, or alluded to but by an unwritten Christian covenant that implicitly subjects free will to an organizing ethos that’s unmistakably theocratic. What was a freedom movement became an authority/wealth/religious movement.

And he gained important insights into the poison of “ideology”:

The extent to which ideology hijacks independent thought, refracting an issue through the lens of an already-settled bias, was all the more disturbing for how long it took me to see it. Ideology is pathological: It provides a psychological structure posing as a theoretical one.

Which led to some puzzlement on my own behalf when I read the only thing I could take issue with:

I honestly believe my children are best served by a free politics that needs two wings to stay airborne and a push-me/pull-you tension between what is a right and what is a privilege, what is entitled and what is not, what reasonably progresses and what responsibly conserves

which seems to me to be supporting the very ideological division which he laments in the rest of the article.

Be that as it may, his transition is very similar to my own journey here in the UK. Born into a Daily Mail family where the Labour Party and other potential Socialists were painted as the devil incarnate while the Tories wore the badge as the party of “individual liberty” I dedicated my adolescent political years to the struggle against the march of totalitarianism which, so I had been conditioned to believe, was the inevitable consequence of Communism or Socialism. This was helpfully illustrated by the plainly authoritarian Soviet and Chinese states, together with their slave states in Eastern Europe and their puerile satellites such as Romania, Albania and North Korea. No one with an ounce of libertarianism in their body was going to be following that path in a hurry.

I resolved to become a more effective enemy of Communism by studying it and exposing its philosophical flaws. I got lucky. I bumped into a proper Socialist who educated me more completely than I’d ever anticipated. I still have a soft spot for the Socialist Party of Great Britain as a result. What I learned was “proper” communists were just as outraged as I was by the obvious authoritarianism in the so-called communist states. If anything they were more angry because their true ideology was being so badly tainted by what the totalitarians were doing in their name. The SPGB and a few other genuine socialist parties are as genuinely libertarian as I am. The only reason that I didn’t end up calling myself a socialist was that, when the chips are down, they’re still committed to an “ideology” and have an almost religious faith in the Marxist analysis of Capitalism and its inevitable self-destruction.

While I was still absorbing these new insights, Britain’s own Reaganite came to power in the shape of Margaret Thatcher and Britain started overtly aping the authoritarian progress of our American cousins, at least in economic terms and, of course, the war on drugs.

Fortunately, they’ve never had the constituency to support the development towards Theocracy and though they’ve made occasional attempts to squeeze the homosexual or abortion genies back inside their bottles and dallied with the “values” question, all such attempts have been thwarted, usually as the result of one or more of them being found guilty of some hypocritical breach of such values. The inevitable public ridicule usually forces them to scuttle back underneath their stones and keep stumm. But their attacks on working class organisation, arguably inspired, or at least encouraged, by Reagan’s defeat of the Air Traffic controllers, were hugely successful and their massive increases in Police powers were a sign of things to come.

The biggest difficulty “free thinkers” now face is that the rest of the world still prefers to believe in black and white, right or wrong answers to the complex questions facing humanity. Those of us who have confronted and overcome our childhood conditioning – whether right or left-wing – usually recognise that all the other forms of conditioning are similarly flawed, to the extent that if you still think the answer to any significant political question is even partially provided by a political party, you almost certainly do not understand the question and have little or no chance of arriving at a real answer.

Assassination Politics recruits new high level supporter

this delightfully sinister US Government page doesn’t actually state that they will assassinate any of the high-profile targets named there, but it’s bleedin’ obvious that, should any “tips” they receive lead to locations in the middle of Pakistani, Yemeni or other middle eastern hinterlands conveniently far enough away from journalistic surveillance, they’ll be saying farewell to a few more drones.

I doubt they appreciate the irony of how much their technique resembles Jim Bell’s infamous proposal for controlling the world’s authoritarians and other bullies. The major difference is that the money isn’t put up anonymously by a peeved public but blatantly offered by a State that thinks it can make its own laws whenever appropriate.

And they certainly won’t appreciate or even comprehend why they’re both wrong for exactly the same reasons. And both right.

Assassination is certainly a more humane way to fight war than carpet or chemical bombing. And if the Islamist’s 9-11 attack had merely put bullets through the brains of the leading neo-cons and money-men who had already decided they needed a war, the “terrorists” would have won a lot more respect and a lot less hostility from a grateful world.

I wonder if they’ll pay out on a drone strike…